Gabriel, S.P. (2002) Identity, culture and the national narrative: Shirley Geok-lin Lim s Joss and Gold. SARE (Southeast Asian Review of English), 44. pp. 87-93. ISSN 0127-046X
Shirley Lim's first novel continues many of the chief concerns that characterise her body of writings, which to-date comprises several collections of poetry, short fiction and academic articles, as well as a book of memoirs. The perplexities of constructing identity across cultures and continents, the dislocations wrought by history, issues of gender and race and the complexities of interpersonal relationships all return here, as extended meditations, and provide the rich complex of ideas out of which Lim structures her first novel. Joss and Gold is a novel whose three parts are separated, but only tenuously, by "geography and the distance of cultures". The novel's cultural and temporal locations span the Malaysian federal capital of Kuala Lumpur in the late 1960s, leading up to the turbulent political events of 1969, New York State a little over a decade later, in 1980, and Singapore in 1981. This narrative cartography of crosscutting movements and affiliations itself recalls the instability of ground that features prominently in the author's life story. Born in Malacca, in British-colonial Malaya, educated in Kuala Lumpur and the United States, the latter of which has been academic base and one of several spaces she has claimed as her home (the others being Malaysia and Singapore) for the last thirty years or so, and currently a Professor of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Lim knows too well the particular tensions and pains, but also perhaps the gains, attendant on a life given to erecting home on the broken continuity of locations.
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