As I noted a few days ago, I have a new book blog. So today I’ll direct your attention there for my review of Diary of an Expat in Singapore by Jennifer Gargiulo. It was a toss up where I would post it, but ultimately decided to put it at the book blog in part because I’m trying to establish that blog and attract readers–and new posts are key in doing so.
Since becoming an expat in 2010, I have enjoyed reading expat memoirs. They’ve helped me feel less alone when I feel isolated. Culture shock and confusion are a common experience, not something that makes me a “bad expat.” Seeing them come to terms with and part of their new home culture is encouraging. Considering that, “Diary of an Expat in Singapore,” by Jennifer Gargiulo should be a natural addition to my bookcase. It isn’t.
We are both expat mothers of two children. Neither of us expected to stay in Singapore long. As I approach my 4th anniversary, Gargiulo is approaching her 7th. We both write about our experiences in Singapore, but we do so in very different ways.
I was hoping for an exploration of the transition to expatriate, acclimation to Singapore, and the difficulties one can have reconciling your culture with that of Singapore’s. I got oversimplified top ten lists and casual racism.
The racism was particularly problematic for me. I learn that Swedes are most likely to be training for a triathelete (pg 21), Japanese stick together (pg 89), and that it’s surprising that there are so many skin whitening products on sale in Singapore since Singaporean kids are always inside studying (pg 91). As the mother of half-Indian daughters and the wife of an Indian American, I was unamused to find out that she thinks
“The Indian expat launches websites, compares ways to best store a sari in Singapore…[and] lengthy discussions on where to buy gold.” (pg 24)
and that everyone loves India except Indians because they want to get PR in Signapore(pg 157). All of these are brushed off as “humor” and “political incorrectness.” They’re not—they are white privilege at its worst—and blatantly racist.