Tin Man

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Yin Ee Kiong
2010, East West Publishing (Aust)
SoftHardcover, 20.5 cm x 13 cm, 315 pages
ISBN: 9780975164662


Tin Man certainly has a deeper set of messages to deliver and in a nation that claims to be impartial to racial differences, the book begs to differ. – Ipoh Echo

That the Chinese diasporas coincided with the end of slavery was not an accident. Slaves had to be replaced and Chinese coolies fitted the bill. Driven by poverty at home and dreams of untold riches abroad, they left for the Americas, South Africa, Australia and South East Asia.

Not all of them were willing participants in the great exodus; many were merely jyu jai, piglets, sold to settle debts or just to ensure the survival of the family.

The tin fields of Larut were a magnet for the Chinese who came in droves — merchants, fortune hunters, fugitives and coolies. Many returned to China but many more stayed.

Lee Ah Ming was one of those who decided to make Malaya home. He came as a jyujai and ended up a towkay. While he did not forget his roots, his heart was here in his new home.

Three generations on, Lee Kuan Sang looks around him; many of his friends’ children have left the country. He wonders if his own children will leave too. Many do not feel welcome anymore. There are calls for them to leave the country. It rankles with him that they are labelled pendatang, immigrants, even though they are local born… as if they had not paid their dues. Had they not helped to build the nation?

But Lee refuses to budge. After all did not those who call for him to leave also come from other lands to settle here? What right had they to demand that he leave? He recalls the stories his grandfather, the Tin Man, told him about settling here. He wishes that those who left knew the sacrifices made for them. Then perhaps they might stay. To leave is a betrayal of all those who sweated and died to help build the country. Yet he understands why so many left — to make a better life in another place, just like their ancestors did.

There will always be those who leave when times get tough. What would the Tin Man have said to them, he wonders…“Tew, go then! See if you can find a better country!” And how would Ahmad have reacted to some of his people’s growing intolerance and avarice?” He would be turning in his grave, Sang is sure of that.

“All of us have come in different ships from different places, but we are in the same boat now. We either row together or we sink.” And as an afterthought he mumbles,“lt will come right… it will; it’s a good country, good people.”


Book Review: TIN MAN

Weight 350 g
Dimensions 20.5 × 13 × 1.5 cm