Mummy, why do you always have to leave for 17A…
17A Keong Saik Road recounts Charmaine Leung’s growing-up years on Keong Saik Road in the 1970s when it was a prominent red-light precinct in Chinatown in Singapore. An interweaving of past and present narratives, 17A Keong Saik Road tells of her mother’s journey as a young child put up for sale to becoming the madame of a brothel in Keong Saik. Unfolding her story as the daughter of a brothel operator and witnessing these changes to her family, Charmaine traces the transformation of the Keong Saik area from the 1930s to the present, and through writing, finds reconciliation.
A beautiful dedication to the past, to memory, and to the people who have gone before us, 17A Keong Saik Road tells the rich stories of the Ma Je, the Pei Pa Zai, and the Dai Gu Liong—marginalised, forgotten women of the past, who despite their difficulties, persevered in working towards the hope of a better future.
© 2017 by Charmaine Leung. Published in paper format in Singapore by Ethos Books, recorded by Storyside 2021.