The Book That Changed Your Life: William Tham

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      The Word Vancouver festival is preparing its 2018 edition with another genre-hopping and inclusive roster of authors, set to appear at venues around the city from September 24 to 30.

      The Straight has asked a group of these writers to describe their most memorable and momentous reading experiences. Which books lit up their imaginations? Which ones struck a chord at a crucial time?

      Here’s what Vancouver’s William Tham told us. He’s the author of the novel Kings of Petaling Street, the senior editor of Ricepaper, and the upcoming writer in residence at Historic Joy Kogawa House. He’ll be speaking at 2:40 p.m. on September 30, at the Speakers Salon in the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library.

      I grew up in an uninteresting suburb outside Kuala Lumpur, and it was there that I first read Tash Aw’s The Harmony Silk Factory. The London-based writer was back in his old stomping grounds to talk about his literary work, where I obtained a copy of his book (as well as an autograph on a hastily procured notepad).

      His debut novel about the rise and fall of Johnny Lim, a former Communist revolutionary turned collaborator during Malaysia’s colonial period, was a breath of fresh air. Aw navigated multiple perspectives and the murky lens of history to weave a story that brought to life places that seemed so rural and lifeless, awakening me to the fact that the potential for stories could be found anywhere.

      When I moved abroad I began to experience the strange solitude and separation from a distant homeland that he wrote eloquently about, and as such, my writing style was and still is heavily influenced by his. A few tributes to his work can be found sprinkled through a few of my stories.