The Red Pearl and Other Stories is an invitation from an idiosyncratic but endearing bunch of misfits and outsiders to travel to emotional sites just beyond our GPS coordinates. Welcome to Kuala Lumpur, Paris, Namche Bazaar – but also to unnamed, weirdly recognizable spaces of desire, anxiety or nightmare. Here, race riots unfold in 1960s Malaysia; an ‘Asian’ student faces ‘Go home’ graffiti on incessant train rides around Sydney; dogs in love twirl and tumble in the high mountains of Nepal. Here, too, is the parallel Gothic world of the Shanghai Bar, where an Orientalist seductress bites back; and the concrete world of expatriate Kuala Lumpur where Dragon Princes and spirit travellers can also be found. Here is a vision of Sydney at its mythical best: golden, shaded in jacaranda blossoms and offering benevolent asylum to an array of newcomers and old hands. Moving between genres and cultures, the stories in this collection capture moments of intensity and yearning, points of turbulence or rest in the lives of characters who inhabit a globalised world. Their quest is for new arrangements of family, home, friendship and workplaces; new ways of living and loving in a rapidly changing world. The Red Pearl and Other Stories is award-winning novelist Beth Yahp’s first collection of short stories.
“Beth Yahp is one of the finest contemporary writers and an important voice from the Asia-Pacific region. She is a rich and accomplished stylist—something unusual in Australian writing—an enticing storyteller and a deft conjurer of marvellous complex worlds, part real, part remembered or imagined. Yahp’s settings range widely—Kuala Lumpur, Sydney, Paris—as do her characters, whose stories reach far back in time as the protagonists in successive generations traverse extraordinary personal and social change. They are travellers, writers, lovers, sailors, ancestors, young women stepping out into the world and remaking themselves, often under pressure and in the face of societal hostility. Like the sailor in ‘The Red Pearl’, this author is ‘voluptuous with the stories in [her] head’. In this collection she shares those stories with the reader, with a high degree of art, innovation and witty, passionate critique. She has an exceptional capacity for revealing observation and detail. Publication of Beth Yahp’s stories in book form in the ideal context of Vagabond Press promises to introduce her to a new generation of readers, many of them young people who are themselves experiencing the issues of identity, dislocation and divided belonging that the author explores.” – Nicholas Jose
Reviews of Beth's memoir Eat first, talk later out from Penguin Random House 2015:
"Remember the promising young Sydney writer who in 1993 produced a spirit-haunted story of three generations of women in Malaya, Malaysia and Australia? What became of her? Beth Yahp went walkabout, reappearing occasionally in short fiction, journalism, editing, broadcasting, and opera libretto; teaching, travelling in south-east Asia and living in Europe. Now, surely too young to write a memoir, she’s back with a full-length book, yet still excavating the generation gap. Sharpened by her travels, her wit perforates the hot air balloons of history and politics in Australia and Malaysia. Promoted as a foodie, travel, family book, this is a cut above them [… filled with] many meals Yahp lovingly describes. Family histories fascinate if they are about people you know or would like to, and whose voices you can hear, as with Yahp’s. [… Her] sentimental journey with her ageing parents meets neither her expectations, nor theirs, nor those of readers hoping for a foodie travelogue. What she is really seeking is more complex: her place as a citizen of the multiracial world, a chosen companion, and their chosen country." – Alison Broinowski, Sydney Morning Herald
"This sprawling memoir is a bit of a buffet - a huge array, beautifully dished up. You wander back and forth through the simultaneous storylines: Yahp's own life and lovers, her parents' enduring relationship, life on the Malay Peninsula since WWII and the development of the modern state. Yahp has lived and worked in Malaysia, Paris and Sydney, but can't seem to define her home, although she wants to follow her tastebuds. The best course is when she dishes up some home truths about our northern neighbour, on corruption and the public peace that is achieved through repression of individuals and information. The contrast with the careless freedoms of Australian society are enough to make you feel queasy."
– Robyn Douglass, Adelaide Advertiser
‘Beth Yahp’s beautifully crafted memoir of her ancestors, her parents, and herself is shaped around journeys criss-crossing the Malay Peninsula where her Siamese-speaking Eurasian mother and her Hakka Chinese father met and married in 1961. […] Yahp persuades her ageing parents to return home to Kuala Lumpur from Honolulu for a road trip around their country so that she can begin to decode their lives and, along the way, bring her own into focus. She illuminates a world where Malaysian politics are increasingly corrupt, where censorship is rife and activism dangerous. […] Eat First, Talk Later ranges widely across the region’s long and troubled history and politics, its gloriously multifaceted culture, each segment vivid and packed with information. This is also a book about writing a book. We watch Yahp nutting out various drafts, jotting down scraps of talk, writing her version of her parents’ lives, driving through the traffic of the Peninsula, managing her turbulent love life and episodes of activism in Sydney and Kuala Lumpur over meals and good talk – […] all skillfully weighted like a brilliant patchwork. – Hilary McPhee, Australian Book Review
‘It has been a good year for memoirs that expand into philosophy and history, without losing the inflection of personal experience. […]Beth Yahp's Eat First, Talk Later (Random House) returns Beth to Malaysia where she invites her parents on a road trip that becomes an untangling of stories: family, political, historical, personal. Three absorbing reads.’ – Drusilla Modjeska, Canberra Times, ‘The Books We Loved’
Beth Yahp was born in Malaysia and came to Australia in 1984. She has lived in Sydney, Kuala Lumpur and Paris. Her novel The Crocodile Fury won the Victorian Premier’s Prize for First Fiction and the NSW Ethnic Affairs Commission Award in Australia, and was translated and published in several European languages. Beth wrote the libretto for composer Liza Lim’s contemporary opera Moon Spirit Feasting, which won the APRA award for Best Classical Composition in 2002. Her short fiction, essays and articles have appeared in Australia, South-east Asia and Europe, and she has edited or co-edited several collections of stories and essays. Beth has taught creative writing for many years, and currently lectures in the Creative Writing program at the University of Sydney. She presented Elsewhere, a radio program for travellers on ABC Radio National (2010-11) and founded the popular Memoir Club at the Randwick Literary Institute in Sydney. Her hybrid memoir Eat First, Talk Later was published by Penguin Random House in 2015.
Beth Yahp, The Red Pearl and Other Stories
2017. 224pp. ISBN 978-1-922181-51-0
Release date: July 15, 2017.
This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.