My curiosity gave way to a dominant feeling of horror and pain. Not at what happens to Karen in her self-described arduous journey – but horror at the spectacularly atrocious level of English and pain at the sheer number of random unconnected events and sometimes entirely irrelevant digressions which I was subjected to. In her recounting of her life from childhood to the period shortly after her marriage, I felt like I was reading The Life of Karen Lee in an extended primary schooler’s Dear Diary format, with no concept of narrative flow.
The language is juvenile – examples: “She didn’t have brown eyes but really deep blue eyes which were as deep as the deep blue sea.” and “… there she was smoking like a broken chimney and drinking like an alcoholic.”. Tenses are used wrongly or mixed up and switched without regard – example: “At this time, the incipient tingling sensation in my crotch then was now a throbbing ache. She was still holding my left hand so I used my right index finger to press down my crotch ensuring that the sensational feeling was under control. Phew, it’s now under control.” Some common phrases are misquoted almost out of recognition (examples: refer to above on smoking and drinking), and the twisted sentence structure and disjointed narration (examples: read the book) make it a Herculean task to complete reading the book with sanity intact.
I was unable to connect with Karen or any of the other characters in her life as the narration was kept to simple straightforward descriptions of physical looks and events. There was scant character development of the other people in her life, or any in-depth examination of Karen’s interactions with them and the impact of the events which occurred. The emotional distance was made worse by the inconsistencies and contradictions in Karen’s opinions on various topics. Karen tends to highlight her self-perceived moral superiority, importance or attractiveness as the main thrust of every event (examples: saturating the first few chapters with how she is loved more than her sister by her family, how she was the person who “saved the victory” of her basketball competition and dared to vocalise her personal disgust at the Thais for eating frogs). She has a penchant for physically labelling each individual lady upon meeting them (examples: read the book). While her self-aggrandizing style was amusing at first, it shortly grew tiresome and left me wondering at the otherwise pointlessness of the book.
Her treatment of the topic of sexuality was, to me, disrespectful and ignorant. Early on in the book, she recounted the story of a transgender who eventually did not undergo the sex change operation as the hospital burnt down, attributing that to a sign of the Christian God. By relating the Christian God’s displeasure with the man to the problems he faced and the man’s and Karen’s rejoicing in the Godly resolution, she hinted of her own disapproval of the man undergoing the operation. Shortly after, in the long digression of her description of Thailand, Karen wrote thus: “Thailand… is a popular city of red light districts among tourists from all over the world. It is lit up with child prostitution, child pornography, sex slavery, homosexuality, and occult beliefs.” Putting aside her cultural insensitivity and unsubstantiated “accusations of sins” in Thailand, Karen inexplicably includes homosexuality in the list of infamy. A very telling line.
In her coming out email, Karen drops two bombshells, first revealing that she is gay, and then an incident of sexual abuse as a child. The uncanny link of revealing the two bombshells together invites the reader to infer that her orientation is the causal effect of the unfortunate incident. In other parts of the book, Karen demonstrates a casual attitude and fickleness towards relationships initiated mainly by physical attraction and lust. Even on her wedding day, the thoughts running through Karen’s mind were those of uncertainty at wanting to be with her wife forever, and even of another woman whom she had earlier claimed was trying to take advantage of her in a vulnerable period.
She broad-brushes her coming out and acceptance – one is reduced to an email, the other to a family visit with shallow exploration of the events. In a book which purports to be the first local lesbian autobio, I found her treatment greatly disappointing. While in any other situation, Karen would have no duty to be a positive representation of local lesbian women, she did choose to take and use the banner of being the first local lesbian autobio writer to promote her “coming out” book. For a minority which is besieged by enough unfairness in life, Karen does no favours by reinforcing the negative public stereotypes of homosexuals as superficial, sex-driven deviants formed by traumatic childhood incidents. That said, I truly admire Karen’s courage in unreservedly putting herself on display for the world to see.
I am unable to recommend this book. The writing is groundbreakingly bad, and its contents add nothing to the understanding of the human condition as a person, lesbian or not. It is my sincere hope that Karen Lee develops her writing skills before undertaking future endeavours.
From Leonard to Leona by Leona Lo
SQ21 by Ng Yi-Sheng
Editor’s Note: Please note that this review is the author’s personal opinion and does not reflect the official position of Sayoni in any way. Futhermore, Sayoni Speak will not accept any new reviews or blog entries about the book “No More Daddy’s Little Girl”. We seek the readers’ understanding and cooperation.