Mummy, why do you always have to leave for 17A…
17A Keong Saik Road recounts Charmaine Leung’s growing-up years on Keong Saik Road in the 1970s when it was a prominent red-light precinct in Chinatown in Singapore. An interweaving of past and present narratives, 17A Keong Saik Road tells of her mother’s journey as a young child put up for sale to becoming the madame of a brothel in Keong Saik. Unfolding her story as the daughter of a brothel operator and witnessing these changes to her family, Charmaine traces the transformation of the Keong Saik area from the 1930s to the present, and through writing, finds reconciliation.
A beautiful dedication to the past, to memory, and to the people who have gone before us, 17A Keong Saik Road tells the rich stories of the Ma Je, the Pei Pa Zai, and the Dai Gu Liong—marginalised, forgotten women of the past, who despite their difficulties, persevered in working towards the hope of a better future.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Charmaine is a Singaporean writer who has lived in Hong Kong for 15 years. She first became passionate about the literary arts while working as a theatre manager in the 1990s. Charmaine’s profession as a marketer and market researcher requires her to work with various cultures and engage people from all walks of life, further fuelling her interest in other cultures and societies. Her writing focuses on human relationships, and the dynamics in these relationships brought about by change in societies. When she is not writing or working, Charmaine is a curious traveller who enjoys roaming the globe to capture landscapes and communities through photography in off-the-beaten tracks like Tibet, Taklamakan Desert, and Madagascar. 17A Keong Saik Road, a creative non-fiction work, is her first published book.
*Photo credit: Edwin Koo