Suchen Christine Lim
Suchen Christine Lim is one of Singapore’s most accomplished writers. In 1992, she won the inaugural Singapore Literature prize with her third novel, Fistful of Colours. Suchen’s works of fiction draw on the history of Singapore, Malaysia and China. Acclaimed for her historical novels, Suchen has also written many children’s picture books.
A Singaporean, Suchen was born in Ipoh, Malaysia in 1948. She came to Singapore at the age of 14 and studied at the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (CHIJ). She studied Literature at the National University of Singapore, and then got a post-graduate diploma in Applied Linguistics. Suchen worked initially as a teacher at Catholic Junior College, before moving to the headquarters of the Ministry of Education to be a curriculum planner. She resigned in 2003 to write full time.
Describing herself as an “accidental writer”, Suchen’s foray into creative writing began when she was invigilating an “A” level exam. To kill the boredom of looking at the top of the students’ heads, she started doodling. She added sentences to the doodles, and these grew into paragraphs. This was the genesis of Rice Bowl, her first novel, which was published in 1984. Between Rice Bowl and her second novel, Suchen co-penned a short play, The Amah: A Portrait in Black and White. The play earned her the Merit Prize in the National University of Singapore - SHELL Short Play Competition in 1986. Suchen published her second novel, Gift from the Gods, in 1990.
Her third novel, Fistful of Colours, has the distinction of being the first novel to be awarded the inaugural $10,000 Singapore Literature Prize (Fiction) in 1992. Described by the judging panel as “outstanding”, the novel traces one day in the life of a young teacher searching for her identity as a woman and an artist. As she peers into the rich history of her stepfather's family, she uncovers and reveals the hopes and struggles of Singapore's first generation of immigrants and residents – Chinese coolies, Indian doctors and Malay waiters.
Suchen was conferred a Fulbright Foundation award in 1996 and took part in the International Writers’ Programme at the University of Iowa. She became the University of Iowa's International Writer-in-Residence in the spring of 2000. She has also held writing residencies in Myanmar, the Philippines, South Korea, Australia and the United Kingdom. In 2012, Suchen was named the Singapore recipient of the South East Asia Write Award.
"I write because writing keeps me sane and out of trouble. Sometimes I despair because the world is full of pain and violence. Writing gives me the illusion I am doing something worthwhile and non-violent."