Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan

Artist in Residence, 2016

A portrait of a person sitting in front of bookshelves.

Artist Statement

I was born on a tiny island in Southeast Asia that’s barely larger than a speck on any globe. Though it’s a small country, Singapore looms large, usually because of its strict laws and robust economy. The Singapore I know, however, is more nuanced and complex than this pristine veneer that outsiders see—and I have dedicated myself to sharing these far more intimate stories with the world.

I feel great responsibility to tell my people’s stories well, and my books aim to shed light on the daily rhythms and folkways there. My first book, A Tiger in the Kitchen, was a memoir exploring my culture and Singaporean female identity via a year of traveling home and learning how to cook. In July, William Morrow will publish Sarong Party Girls, a work of literary fiction that explores sexual and racial politics in Singapore and what it means to be a modern Singaporean woman.

While At Headlands

While at Headlands, I will work on my second novel, which is also set in Singapore. In my first three books—A Tiger in the KitchenSingapore Noir, and Sarong Party Girls—I delved into various facets of Singaporean culture, the country’s history, and its fables. My new novel explores a segment of Singapore I’ve not written about before—I will come to Headlands having recently begun the journey of finally penning this story and I hope to leave with a good chunk of the manuscript completed.

Selected Work

“A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family”, featured on National Public Radio

“Reel” a short story from Singapore Noir, published in Five Dials

“Pride and Prejudice in Modern Singapore,” an essay for Foreign Policy magazine on growing up in Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore