A Messy Queer Girlhood in Singapore

Books

Kendra Winchester is a Contributing Editor for Book Riot where she writes about audiobooks and disability literature. She is also the Founder of Read Appalachia, which celebrates Appalachian literature and writing. Previously, Kendra co-founded and served as Executive Director for Reading Women, a podcast that gained an international following over its six-season run. In her off hours, you can find her writing on her Substack, Winchester Ave, and posting photos of her Corgis on Instagram and Twitter @kdwinchester.

Welcome to Read this Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that needs to jump onto your TBR pile! Sometimes, these books are brand-new releases that I don’t want you to miss, while others are some of my backlist favorites. Today, we’re looking at an essay collection from Singaporean writer Tania De Rozario.

a graphic of the cover of Dinner on Monster Island by Tania De Rozario

Dinner on Monster Island by Tania De Rozario

When I’m reading publisher emails and combing through book catalogs, I try to keep in mind that some of the best books can fly under the radar, especially books by authors from outside of the U.S. So when I spotted Dinner on Monster Island, I flagged it immediately and added it to my list of books that I wanted to look into more later.

Tania De Rozario’s essay collection Dinner on Monster Island follows her messy life as a biracial, fat, queer femme growing up in Singapore. Many of her essays center around girlhood and the intense fatphobia and queerphobia she experienced. While in her younger years, she was required to do extra exercise because the government deemed her BMI too high. At her all-girls school, the administration made it a priority to find and punish girls suspected of lesbian conduct. And De Rozario’s classmates made fun of her mixed heritage. Everything about her school experience told her that she didn’t belong.

De Rozario grew up with a single mother who became extremely religious and forced De Rozario to have an exorcism to get rid of her queerness. Once she reached adulthood, De Rozario left her mother’s house and never looked back, choosing a life couch surfing and facing eviction rather than spending a single second more with her mother.

The author tackles these subjects from an anti-colonial perspective as she tries to untangle the mess that is the modern world. Now, she lives in Canada, which has its own set of issues. But De Rozario brings it all together, capturing her struggles as a child and connecting with the trauma she’s working through as an adult. Dinner on Monster Island is a hidden gem of 2024 that you definitely won’t want to miss.


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