cover image Dinner on Monster Island: Essays

Dinner on Monster Island: Essays

Tania De Rozario. Harper Perennial, $18.99 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-0-063-29966-5

In this poignant memoir-in-essays, De Rozario (And the Walls Come Crumbling Down) intertwines stories about growing up queer and brown in Singapore with her analysis of her favorite horror films. “It took me years to realize that perhaps the reason I love horror is the fact that when I was twelve years old, I was subjected to it,” she writes, recounting how her mother, who viewed De Rozario’s boyish behavior as deviant, enlisted church friends to “gay-exorcise” her daughter. The author endured 7 hours of rough treatment in a religious ceremony purportedly meant to free her from the devil. Later on, De Rozario saw herself in The Exorcist’s demon-filled protagonist and the title character of Carrie; she especially related to Sadako, the spectral protagonist of Japanese horror film Ringu, whom De Rozario interprets as an avatar of feminist justice (“women refusing to die”). Throughout, De Rozario weaves these pop culture ruminations into reflections on her youth in Singapore, a prosperous but highly economically stratified island where the government micromanages the lives of its citizens—including their bodies, De Rozario notes. In addition to suppressing her queer identity, De Rozario describes how this body-centered surveillance stifled her in other ways (as an overweight kid, she endured the government’s strenuous weight loss program). De Rozario transfixes with her idiosyncratic blend of film criticism, social critique, and autobiography. It’s a unique and touching account. (Feb.)

Correction: An earlier version of this review misspelled the name of a character in Ringu and misstated the length of the religious ceremony the author underwent.