Multicultural Britain is ‘helping break barriers’ says Chan Ling Yap

Chan Ling Yap
Chan Ling Yap

A PRINCES Risborough author is set to publish her second novel – a love story about multicultural Britain and the influence it is having around the world.

The tale involves a Muslim man and a Christian woman who meet at Oxford university in the late 1960s.

chan ling yap

chan ling yap

But as the heartbreaking story progresses, their love has to endure a clash of cultures, prejudice and parental interference.

Chan Ling Yap, 64, who has lived in the town for 14 years, said: “I like to pitch stories against social, political and economic issues.

“The world is getting smaller and smaller. Families are more likely to send their children for education in another country.

“Inevitably these young people will meet with people from different ethnic origins and cultures.

“University is a liberal place and when they return home that can be the problem.

“England is becoming increasingly multicultural, so it is more common for people from different religions and cultures to meet. But one family can enter the picture and then the love cannot be sustained. It is such a shame.

“I do think a mixing of cultures is an enriching experience, and that is why you go to university to broaden your experience. It is good and can bridge divides.

“It (the book) deals with a very topical and modern day issue, that many might empathise with.”

The book is called Bitter-Sweet Harvest and is published by Marshall Cavendish. It is due to be released in early March.

Her first novel, called Sweet Offerings, was published in 2009 by Penn Press.

Bitter-Sweet Harvest is a sequel to Sweet Offerings, but the stories do not need to be read in a chronological order.

Yap says the success of the first book prompted her to write another.

“It had a good reception and when I met with people in book clubs they said: ‘We are already looking forward to your next one’,” she explains.

The writer is already researching material for her third novel. Yap was born in Kuala Lumpur and educated in Malaysia. She has a PhD in economics and lectured at the University of Malaya, before joining the UN’s food programme where she worked as a senior rice commodity specialist.

In 2003 she developed her own exercise programme, which is a combination of eastern and western disciplines.

Yap outlines the techniques in Fusion Fitness, her first exercise book which was published in 2002.

Below are interview responses to specific questions What made you decide to write a novel?

It started out as a joke, a challenge. My husband has always accused me of having too active an imagination. So I thought I’ll put it to use. I’ll write a story. And that was how it started. I then had to decide what to write. As it was my first attempt at writing fiction, I thought I should choose something familiar to me. But I also wanted it to be an extra-ordinary story, yet one that people could relate to. I am an avid reader myself and when I empathise or relate to the characters in a novel I enjoy it so much more. My first novel, Sweet Offerings, a story of love and sacrifice in a Chinese polygamous marriage, met all the criteria I set for myself. I know about polygamy having grown up in such a family. For many readers in the west, polygamy is something that is extraordinary. And for readers both in the west and the east, whether polygamy exists in their countries or not, it is a story that people can relate to.

What inspired you write your second novel Bitter-Sweet Harvest?

I was motivated to write another book by the readers of Sweet Offerings. I had a great opportunity to meet with many readers because I was invited to their readers’ group meetings. I attended more than a dozen of these and most, if not all, asked if I would write a sequel. The ending of Sweet Offerings was open to a sequel. As one reader wrote on my website: ‘I cannot recall ever reading a book where the very last word carried so much meaning for the future.’ Bitter-Sweet Harvest is a tale of love between two people of different ethnic origins and beliefs. The hero and heroine in Bitter-Sweet Harvest met and fell in love while at Oxford University. There in the liberal atmosphere of University life, their love bloomed. But once back home, family pressures and cultural differences became too great and they break up; a break-up that was very bitter.

I find writing a fiction pitched against the social and cultural issues of the day very challenging and interesting. And love between people of different ethnic origins, beliefs and culture is a very topical issue today. In Europe, with liberal immigration policy we have huge pockets of people of different origins in the country. The world is becoming a smaller and smaller place because of the ease of travel and advances in communication. Inevitably people with different social and religious backgrounds are thrown together. The university, in particular, is a fertile ground and inevitably relationships form.

Are the stories biographical?

Both books are not autobiographies. Like most authors, I draw upon my life experiences. In my case, I have direct experience of all the places described in the novel.

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