‘Present’ was critically discussed during a discourse session with the author – Serene Wee. The speaker for the session was Mohamed Pitchay Gani, a critique and lecturer from National Institution of Education and was facilitated by Nora Yuan de-Silva, a specialist teacher for English language. The session was held at the Earshot@Arts House, on Saturday – 29th October 2010 organised by the National Book Development Council Singapore.
Growing up in a shop house directly below a loving Malay family gave Serene an invaluable experience and countless treasured memories. The experience of her childhood days became so intertwined in her that, unknowingly, it seeped into her mind as she was writing her novel, ‘Present’. The novel centers on Mat, a young teenage boy who tries his adamant best in looking for a perfect gift for his mother. It is indeed a unique setting, when a Chinese author is able to vividly delve into and describe the customs and tradition of a Malay family, accurately and with such detail.
When asked, the cheerful and humble lady simply answered, “It was my great fortune to live so close to a Malay family who was so willing to share their life with me. I feel lucky to have this opportunity to know another ethnic group so intimately without being intrusive.”
Indeed, Serene has successfully bring in the Malay culture through Mat and his family into a book that carries with it many universal values that can be appreciated by people from different racial groups. Through ‘Present’, the mind of a Singaporean thriving in a multi-racial setting can clearly be detected and be reckoned with, by others.
One who reads the book will learn to look at things with one’s heart and one will see whatever one’s desire. And will always remember to share the blessings that one’s received – forget it and it will forget thy.
‘Present’ is a heartwarming tale about a boy. About a boy who never scores goals when he play soccer nor is academically superior, but a boy who is so real, sensitive and heartwarming, it touches your soul.
By Nurul Fasha Binte Samsudin