For the book summary, refer to this link.
Why you should read the book?
Karen Lee holds a corporate job with Hewlett Packard and she also had a stint with IBM previously. From a tender age of 6, Karen realized that she was naturally attracted to females. This book is collection of some of her major life events in chronological order and the various relationships she had with her friends/lovers. As a reader, I could empathize with the struggle she faced of coming out as a full-fledged lesbian in a conservative society like Singapore’s.
Karen expresses her thoughts very vividly and one can almost feel for her and the difficulties she faced when embracing this lifestyle. This book is eye-opening for those who are not familiar with the LGBT community or do not have gay/lesbian friends. It presents things from Karen’s perspective and also the rationale behind the decisions she took along the way. Most of the decisions she made were intuitive in nature and the good thing is that Karen was truly honest in following her heart and doing what she think was best at the point in time. The book also showcases how life in Girls Brigade in a Singapore school was like.
Some of the experiences she has been through such as drinking frog soup, being robbed, surviving a small fire, visiting gay bars/pubs are certainly very unique and uncommon. Readers can only see how such events affected her life. Humans are always unpredictable and the book will demonstrate how she navigated through such relationships with her roommates and emerged stronger.
A big part of this book also involves her struggle between her faith in Christianity and coming out as a lesbian. It was certainly not easy to be a full-fledged lesbian when such behavior is not unacceptable by God. Another big struggle for her was when she finally came clean on her sexual orientation with her parents. Having grown up in a conservative Christian family, she had to face some shock and resistance when she finally revealed the truth.
The issue of juggling between co-curricular activities and studies is also a theme prevalent early on in this book. This is something that many modern students might be able to relate to. Karen’s adventurous spirit and global mindset is something to be admired. She had no qualms about travelling to Sweden to meet up with someone she chatted with from IIRC and later, also openly married a Canadian lady, Dorothy.
Who is this book meant for?
This book is suitable for just about any adult. As the LGBT theme is sensitive in nature, children may wish to avoid reading it just yet. Advocates of the LGBT community may be highly motivated by this book to also share their story and have courage to love, not barring societal pressures. Heterosexuals or bisexuals will also understand the life of a lesbian by reading the book.
What is the book like?
It is an autobiography and Karen recounts key events in her life and takes on the pronoun ‘I’ throughout. The linguistic style is easy to read and very reflective, brooding in nature. At some passages, italicized text is used to reflect her innermost thoughts. Consisting of 180+ pages, the book can be read in about 4 hours at ordinary reading pace. Events are often well described and the book is presented in a sequential order, from her life as a pre-schooler till the day she got married.
What can I learn from the book?
The first is to empathize with the struggles of people in the LGBT community and their difficulty in order to gain acceptance into society/religious beliefs. In a country like Singapore where gay marriage is not legalized, gay and lesbians may have to work harder to obtain eventual acceptance. There is a big debate as to whether people are born gay or whether they turn gay due to environmental factors. However, this is not covered in the book.
The next important fact is to learn to respect the LGBT society as they have the right to love and attain happiness through romance. As in Karen’s case, she clearly describes the pleasure and love she felt during the courtship and subsequently marriage with Dorothy. Being more open-minded will allow you to better understand others and learn to walk in their shoes.
For Karen and perhaps some of the LGBT community, much exploration may be needed before one can eventually settle on a same-sex life partner. From the book, one can appreciate Karen’s fear of commitment issues that are associated with marriage. Before her marriage, she also had other girlfriends. It is important to understand that physical attraction and sex do matter in relationships even for LGBTs. So are issues like infatuation, flings, platonic relationships etc. Relationships are an art and always requires hard work to make them flourish. This is so whether for bi/hetero or homosexuals alike.
Finally, you can live by your decisions more easily if you gain the respect of your community/religion. Whilst this is important, it is also crucial to be able to take a stand and stick by your decision. If your heart and mind are in sync, you will be less likely to look back with regret. This also involves the need to have a strong value system to ensure that your actions will be consistent with your values.