Lau Siew Mei returns with first novel in nine years, The Last Immigrant
SINGAPORE — Epigram Books is pleased to announce that our first book of 2018, The Last Immigrant, will be released on 19 Jan 2018.
The novel follows Ismael, who moves from Singapore to Australia and works in the immigration office. It is his job to decide whether asylum seekers get to stay in the country. However, fingers start pointing in Ismael’s direction after a string of unexpected events occur and threaten to turn his life in Brisbane upside-down. Can he emerge unscathed?
Author Lau Siew Mei is best known for her critically acclaimed novel, Playing Madame Mao, which Time magazine called “one of the best novels ever written about Singapore”.
She said the decision to frame the story around the topic of immigration wasn’t directly affected by the recent geo-political events happening around the world.
“I did an initial draft of the novel about eight years ago. It came as a gift because it was the easiest first draft I’ve ever done,” she said. “I get affected by events taking place around me. It’s like having invisible antennas so I don’t think it was a conscious decision but one that had been building inside.”
Edmund Wee, publisher and CEO of Epigram Books said: “We’re delighted and honoured to be publishing this very important work by Siew Mei.”
In The Last Immigrant, an enclosed Australian neighbourhood becomes a microcosm of a world increasingly hostile towards migrants. Ismael, a transplanted Singaporean, lives on a bucolic suburban Brisbane street. His job is to decide whether asylum-seekers get to stay in the country, a dilemma that never fails to remind him of his own immigrant status.
But then his life begins to take on the hue of a nightmare: his neighbour inexplicably commits suicide, his wife dies of cancer, his daughter abandons him to live in the United States, and his Siamese cat goes missing.
As cultural and societal fragmentations lead to alienation and stoke fears of the unknown, Ismael increasingly finds himself the target of threatening letters and finger-pointing, and terrified of the possibility that his own neighbours are all prey to the malevolent tribalism inherent to human nature.
About the Author
Lau Siew Mei was born and raised in Singapore. She is the author of two novels, Playing Madame Mao and The Dispeller of Worries, and a children’s illustrated middle-grade book, Yin’s Magic Dragon. Her short stories have been broadcast on the BBC World Service and ABC Radio National, and published in Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore and the UK.
She has been shortlisted for the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, and Best Emerging Queensland Author in the QLD Premier’s Literary Awards. She was also commended in the Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, awarded a Varuna Residential Writers’ Fellowship and an Asialink Literature Residency in Malaysia.
The Last Immigrant is her third novel.