Cheryl Tan recounts a wonderfully delectable tale in A Tiger in the Kitchen, a memoir that follows her family visits to Singapore over a 1 year span. Now, with the soaring popularity of memoirs lately, you may wonder: What makes this one different from the rest?
Personally, this book was a good read for 3 main reasons:
1. You find out what constitutes Singaporean cuisine as Cheryl begins cooking with the women of her family in the hopes of learning to make the homemade dishes of her childhood.
2. With a background in journalism (She’s worked at the Wall Street Journal, Baltimore Sun, and InStyle), Cheryl’s writing is concise and as you read, you feel as if you were listening to her tell the story in person. I was thankful for this because I was stuck in jury duty and my iPod battery had died by lunchtime so I picked up the book at the nearest Barnes&Noble in Brooklyn on my lunch break.
3. If you happen to come from an immigrant family, this book really makes you wonder how much you know about your own family’s heritage. Through her cooking lessons with her aunties, Cheryl discovers secrets about her family (i.e. both her grandmothers ran gambling dens in their basements at one point in their lives) that allow her to see what being a Tan family woman means.
On a positive and somewhat negative note, this memoir will make you hungry if you are reading it on an empty stomach. I find that it makes for perfect reading after a meal or if not, be sure you have some healthy snacks on hand.
I also had the pleasure of meeting Cheryl Tan this past April since she graciously accepted my invitation to come read and speak to Fordham’s
Asian Pacific American Coalitionas a part of our first Asian Heritage month celebration. This was my first attempt at organizing a book reading on campus and while the whole process was a bit nerve-wracking, it was a great opportunity to practice the skills I had been learning at my publicity internship at Grove/Atlantic, Inc. In the end, it all went off nicely.
Cheryl is a lot of fun to meet in person; she is easygoing and always willing to share her experiences with her readers. If you decide to read her memoir, I recommend attending one of her literary events this summer. For those in Brooklyn, you can catch her on September 18 at the annual Brooklyn Book Festival!