28 August 2019

Narratives Undiscovered and Underway in the Birthday Book 2019

The Birthday Book launch is never complete without cake.
The Birthday Book launch is never complete without cake.
The Birthday Book for 2019 has launched! In this edition, contributors reflect on the stories that define them, their communities, the causes they champion, and Singapore’s collective future.

The theme this year is Narratives Undiscovered and Underway, featuring 53 essays and 54 contributors. "This year a couple wrote an essay together," Aaron Maniam, co-editor for this year's Birthday Book explained.

"We're building a community, gathering stories that make up Singapore," he said of the genesis of the Collective and the series. He observed that most of the stories about Singapore are at two ends of a spectrum, either "cheerleading" or critical, creating a need for stories that are in between that contribute to a "brain trust".

The Birthday Book is also meant to be a heart trust, to "help us as a community to feel", Maniam added. "Brains without hearts are cold and clinical, and hearts without brains don't know what they are doing," he said.

And just as triangles are more stable, the books are also part of a "hand trust", offering solutions to problems rather than just complaining about them, he said. 

The Birthday Book has always revolved around stories to tell and to share, said Cheryl Chung, who co-edited this year's Birthday Book. The Collective chooses a theme for its projects every year that runs from National Day in one year to National Day in the next year.

The first edition featured 51 contributions about What is Singapore’s Next Big Thing? in 2016, in line with Singapore's 51st year of independence. The theme that year was followed by 52 essays on What Should We Never Forget, and then 53 opinions on The Roads We Take in 2018. Last year's edition sold out in three months.

2018 also saw the launch of The Birthday Book (Junior), featuring stories from children aged six to 16. This also sold out - in six weeks. The Birthday Collective plans to provide electronic versions of books which are no longer available, Chung said.

Other Birthday Collective works include:
- The next Birthday Book (Junior),
Themed The Stories That We Must Tell, this book will launch in November.

- The Birthday Workbook
An assessment book based on The Birthday Books.

- The Birthday Salon
An online seminar series that works through the questions in the Workbook.

- The Birthday Video Competition, held in conjunction with ITE
 This competition may be opened up to polytechnic students in future. Last year's entries are available on YouTube.

- The Birthday Cookbook
This book will feature stories of Singapore and Singapore's heritage through the medium of food, with video content and recipes online.

- The Birthday events
These are other gatherings, such as a workshop about writing letters and what they represent.

The 2020 Birthday Book theme was also unveiled. Punning on the year 2020, the theme is Seeing Singapore Clearly.

2019 contributor Marcus Loh said that an informed public dialogue has to be based on common understanding and policy literacy. "The more familiar we become with the data behind our policies, the better we can complement our understanding of the people impacted by them, and the richer our own policy dialogue," he commented on his LinkedIn page.


Buy the Birthday Book at S$30

Buy the other books

Get involved in the Birthday Collective 

Hashtags: #thebirthdaybook, #tbb2019