Singapore Writers Festival: A Speck in the Universe

6 Nov Sun, 2.00pm - 3.30pm

The Visible Invisibles

The Visible Invisibles: Stories of Migrant Workers in Asia

- Penguin Random House

A domestic worker from the Philippines runs away from her husband who’s set out to kill her. A mine-blaster looks at his X-ray scan to realize that all he has earned from his sixteen years of work is a catalogue of chronic diseases. An undocumented factory worker in Malaysia takes refuge in the wild to escape from the police. A construction worker in India is abducted and sold as a bride to a stranger. Migrant sex workers in Thailand scrimp to stretch their vanishing savings, having lost all their customers due to COVID-19. A cleaner from China struggles to cope with the cultural oddities while working in an Indian restaurant. Domestic workers in Singapore lament the hopelessness of finding love in a foreign land. A landscaper tries to rebuild his life with a reconstructed ‘alien’ face after he suffers a massive explosion. A project engineer who once hated his native village, now plants trees to preserve its nature. 

Told in their own voices, the stories presented in this collection paint an intimate portrait of the lives of low-wage migrant workers in Asia. By exploring themes of employer-employee power imbalance, love, death, religion, racism, friendship, alienation, family dynamics, digital inequality, social liberties, and migration’s transformative capacity, the collected stories provide a nuanced understanding of domestic and international migration, one of the defining trends in our world today.

An amazing collection of stories: depressing, yet also very human and compelling.

-Debbie Fordyce, activist for migrant workers, President- TWC2, Singapore

An outstanding work - the authors capture the voices of migrant workers with sympathy and compassion, clearly demonstrating their plight and suffering without being patronizing.

-Zheng Xiaoqiong, noted poet and erstwhile migrant worker

These stories are not predictable stereotypes, but colourful and moving accounts of life experienced by those right next to us. If you think you know or can predict how migrants feel about their lives, this book makes you realize that you don't. Check out this collection and laugh and cry at what you find.

- David Bacon, noted photojournalist, author, political activist, and union organizer, USA