Shirley Geok-Lin Lim: An Interview

By Quayum, Mohammed A. | MELUS, Winter 2003 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Shirley Geok-Lin Lim: An Interview


Quayum, Mohammed A., MELUS


Writer, critic, activist, educator, Shirley Geok-lin Lim was born in Malacca, Malaysia, one often children of a Hokkien Peranakan (1) family. After receiving her bachelor's degree from Kuala Lumpur's University of Malaya in 1967, she went to the US where she earned a PhD in English and American literature from Brandeis University. Widely considered as Malaysia's most internationally acclaimed writer in the English language, Shirley Lim is the author of five volumes of poetry, three collections of short stories, a memoir, and a novel. Her first book of poems, Crossing the Peninsula, won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize for 1980, the first Asian woman poet to receive this prestigious award. Her other volumes of poetry include: No Man's Grove (1985), Modern Secrets (1989), Monsoon History (1994), and What the Fortune Teller Didn't Say (1998). Her memoir, Among the White Moon Faces: An Asian-American Memoir of Homelands (Feminist Press, 1996), published simultaneously in Singapore as Among the White Moon Faces: Memoirs of a Nonya Feminist (Times Books, 1997), won the American Book Award for 1997. Her first novel Joss and Gold, was published by the Feminist Press, New York, and Times Books International, Singapore in 2001. Her short story titles include: Another Country (1982), Life's Mysteries (1995), and Two Dreams (1997).

Shirley Lim "s reputation as a writer is rivaled by her reputation as a critic of Asian and Asian American literature. She has edited or co-edited The Forbidden Stitch (recipient of the 1990 American Book Award), Approaches to Teaching Kingston's The Woman Warrior, Reading the Literatures of Asian America, and One World of Literature. She is also the author of Nationalism and Literature: English-language Writing from the Philippines and Singapore (1993) and Writing South East/ Asia in English: Against the Grain (1994). Winner of numerous awards for her outstanding contributions to teaching, she is currently Professor of English and Women's Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her forthcoming books include a novel, a volume of poetry, and a book of cultural and gender criticism.

This interview was carried out via electronic mail in March 2002.

MAQ: Why do you write? Is it for the sheer joy of writing--the joy of telling a story, for example--or because you have some ideas to convey, some instructions perhaps? Is writing an obsessive, compulsive activity for you or is it a way of solving problems, private or societal?

SL: When I was much younger I might have replied that I wrote for the "sheer joy" of writing, but this has not been the case for a long time. That I feel driven to write is clear. That writing provides me with a deeply satisfying sense of coming to who I am, becoming who I believe myself to be, is also clear. But I am less certain now that "joy" has anything to do with it.

More often than not, writing means long hours and days of loneliness, isolation, doubt. And more and more I feel the absence of time for the kind of writing I want to do. Working on this interview with you, for example, means losing time for writing. Entire months and even years go by with very little time for the kind of writing you are asking me about.

Writing is surely no way to go about solving problems. I would like to think that my poems and prose works offer symbolic action and so participate in a significant way in the social world in a political public sphere, but that is a faint hope and as easily winked out even during my lucid moments.

Is writing obsessive for me? Not in the psycho-neurotic sense, the way an obsessive-compulsive has no rational control over her actions. My sense of duty, my work ethic, is very strong, and I spend most of my life devoted to my salaried profession as a university teacher and citizen. Social responsibilities take up an enormous amount of my energy, whether they were/are childcare, housekeeping chores or community services.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Shirley Geok-Lin Lim: An Interview
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?