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Born in the Year of the Fire Tiger, Ann Elizabeth Wee moved to Singapore in 1950 to marry into a Singaporean Chinese family, travelling by ship into a world of cultural expectations and domestic rituals that she would eventually come to love. Her work in Singapore’s fledging social welfare department in the 1950s only deepened her cross-cultural learning and appreciation for the shapes and forms of the Singapore family.
One of Singapore’s pioneering social workers, Ann shares her experiences frankly and with great humour. Her talent is for remembering the things that history books leave out: the embarrassing bits, questions of hygiene, terms of endearment, the emotional nuance in social relations, the stories of convicts, ghost wives and changeling babies, rural clan settlements and migrant dormitories, the things that disappeared when families moved into HDB estates.
Affectionately observed and wittily narrated, with a deep appreciation of how far Singapore has changed, this book brings to life the country’s social transformation by talking about the family, “in its 101 different shapes and sizes, with its capacity to cope which ranges from truly marvellous to distinctly tatty: still, in one form or another, the best place for most of us to be”.