I learned about Australian writer Simone Lazaroo and her works during her lessons at my M.A. Her debut novel, The World Waiting to be Made (1994) is partly autobiographical and can be studied as an amazing example of diasporic literature written by a woman.
From Book Depository:
A young woman journeys back to her birthplace, Singapore, and to Malacca, her ancestral home, to discover rich, complex and mysterious aspects of her own identity. Aspects of herself that had only been half remembered, hinted at, or understood during a dislocated childhood and adolescence growing up in contemporary suburban Australia.The World Waiting to be Made charts the uncertain progress of an outsider in search of both her personal history and a meaningful place in the world.
I have to say that The World Waiting to be Made is much more than a diaspora story. The narrator, born in Singapore, moves to Australia with her family when she is only 3 years old and she spends the next 20 years there. Her story is then one of struggle and adaptation in the 1970’s Australia.
The novel explores what it means to be Eurasian in Australia, but also what that means when you are a woman. Although Australia was no longer a colony in the 1970’s, the unnamed narrator faces covert racism from some the Anglo-descended people. She just listens other people talk how Asian she is or how non-normative she is while she struggles to understand her real identity. At one point, she is even told she is not “that kind of Asian” and she wonders what people mean with the word “Asian” that compromises so many different nationalities, ethnicities and cultures.
Lazaroo has a real talent for writing and creating characters. I found myself immediately sympathizing with the main character and her story. For example, her high school struggles make her experience universal: she wants to become friends with what she calls “the cool kids”, but her appearance seems a barrier to do so. When she is done with high school she has no idea what to do either, what to study, where to live. Apart from this, reading is addictive due to the organization: the book is divided into sections, chapters and little thematic excerpts. I found myself awake at 1 a.m saying to myself “just another excerpt more”.
I would totally recommend The World Waiting to be Made to anyone interested in Australian literature, women’s stories and migrants’ stories. Although Lazaroo admitted that the novel is partly autobiographical, one needs to keep in mind that once you organize your life and write about it, it becomes a sort of fiction. However, she explores growing-up, maturing, sexuality, relationships, friendship, religion, travelling and any other topic that a young woman faces nowadays.
Just as I finished writing an essay about this novel I came across the hashtag #DiversifyYourShelves on Twitter. I think Lazaroo is the perfect writer to add some diversity to anyone’s reading and although her books are not easy to find in Europe/USA, do not hesitate to buy one if you see them. I had the opportunity to borrow mine from the school library, something I had not done in a long time and which brought me as much pleasure as discovering Lazaroo as a writer.
On a side note, I would like to add that Simone is an amazing and inspiring teacher. She told us about her creative process and how she just writes and edits and puts a lot of hard work on her writing which she combines with her Creative Writing teaching at Murdoch University in Australia. She truly is passionate about her work and her writing and she showed us that although it may not always be easy to sit down and write, the important thing is that you just do it and work on the text. Just the perfect advice when I’m about to start my PhD!