Peculiar Chris by Johann S Lee

Peculiar Chris is a novel which deals with gay themes by Johann S. Lee, published in Singapore by Cannon International in 1992.

Lee wrote the book, his first novel,[1]:54 while doing his National Service in Singapore at the age of 19. It was published a year later.

The book recounts the coming of age, and coming out, of Chris through his experience with the deaths of his father and his lover Samuel,[1]:54 the latter from AIDS.[2]

Chris meets his first lover, Kenneth, in Singapore, where Kenneth has traveled from Indonesia to study;

he meets his second lover, Jack, in Sydney after he travels to Australia to come out,[2][3]

and leaves for London, the birthplace of Maurice, after Samuel’s death.[2]

It is also noteworthy for documenting how the military bureaucracy reacts when a soldier comes out in Singapore.[4] (Source: Wikipedia)

(excerpt from interview with “BooksActuallyShop”)

I am aware that Peculiar Chris is the first gay novel in Singapore. In your foreword you mentioned:

“In western societies , writers who chose to write about gays can now develop plots that explore and go beyond the predictable and restrictive confines of “coming out” blues or the “growing-up-gay syndrome. But no such liberty exists in our country”

How have the people around you reacted to Peculiar Chris?

My friends reacted very positively, in contrast to my immediate family in Singapore who are staunch Christians and who to this day continue to distance themselves from my writing, and my sexual identity. It was a source of pain for many years. But recently, I’ve come to accept that some bridges can only be built from both sides.

What was the experience of writing Peculiar Chris for you? And on that note, do you have a character you love or love to hate?

The words flowed very freely – it’s almost inconceivable, looking back now.

There is a special place in my heart for Kuang Ming, who makes his first, fleeting, appearance in the epilogue. Based on the Chinese characters for the words “light” and “brightness”, Kuang Ming (Guang Ming) was in every sense a metaphor, for all the hopes I held as a twenty-one year-old for the future of gay civil rights in Singapore, and for my journey from Singapore to university life in London.