Cover

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Title Page

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Copyright

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Table of Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Introduction: Singapore/Girl

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pp. vii-xxxiv

The imaginary does have consequence in the real. Or so the child narrator of Fiona Cheong’s novel The Scent of the Gods is told in a lesson about the equator. The fictional Sister Katherine is most definitely correct in ways she may not have anticipated. ...

Chronology

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pp. xxxv-xxxviii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xxxix-xl

Thanks first of all to my teachers at Saint Anthony’s Convent, and to my mother, Doris Cheong, for their gift of beginnings; to my father, Daniel Cheong, who inspired this book unwittingly; to James McConkey, for his wisdom and kindness; to faithful friends, whose spirits accompanied me throughout the writing ...

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One

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pp. 1-15

We used to play hide-and-seek underneath Great-Grandfather's house, where the sand was soft and the dark wove threads like cool smoke, and stone pillars glimmered smooth white at the edges of the dark. Between the pillars ran the water pipes, a network of hanging paths. They smelled old, long-used, and full of balance. ...

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Two

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pp. 16-36

When the businesswoman became pregnant, she wrote home to her aunts in Malacca, telling them she wanted to hire amahs. Her aunts wrote back that they would screen the neighborhood's girls for her, and send her those whom they could tell had been brought up properly. ...

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Three

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pp. 37-89

There was a monsoon drain that ran near the coconut trees outside Great-Grandfather's house, where the grass slipped away and then continued on the other side of the drain onto the road. In June you could run to the monsoon drain and stand looking down the steep cement from up there on the edge, ...

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Four

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pp. 90-93

The path that ran out from behind the house, that ran into the love-grass where in December the sand dust floated in the saltwater wind, was hot when the noon sun fell on it, and then we had to walk on the grass. We would pass under the frangipani tree and walk through the love-grass and then we would be in the cemetery. ...

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Five

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pp. 94-137

I could hear them, somewhere out there, young men's voices, restless, wakeful, hungry in the promise-heavy evening light that dripped wet through the coconut leaves and splintered the shadows on the ground. The road lay silent, empty behind the coconut trees and the fence. ...

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Six

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pp. 138-171

February arrived, a time of warm steady rains and the smell of wet grass. At St. Catherine the flowers that had been planted by the older nuns who had grown too tired to teach were blooming crazily all along the school walls. I was in Primary Six A, in a classroom on the second floor of the back building. ...

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Seven

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pp. 172-209

In Great-Grandfather's house, just after sunset we would walk into the dining room for dinner. We would sit at the long table in the middle of the room, where there were many chairs. The table and chairs were made of blackwood, and there was no tablecloth. ...

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Eight

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pp. 210-223

The night wind drifted into the trees, dragging seaweed through the dark. "Smell that, Chief?" Li Shin said, turning to me. "It's going to rain again. You can always smell rain before it comes." I nodded, and he squeezed my nose. "You'd better go inside now," he said. Then he walked to the door, stopped, and pulled it closed a little. ...

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Nine

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pp. 224-248

Grandma told us once that in China there used to grow a white country flower. This flower grew far off in the hills and bloomed only at night, because it had magic. When it bloomed, it gave off a powerful sweet scent, like the scent of the gods when they came to you, Grandma said. ...

Notes

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pp. 249-250

Interview with Fiona Cheong

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pp. 251-258

Bibliography

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pp. 259-261