The Abomination of the Blue Hibiscus is a short story by Ovidia Yu, published in the Year’s Best Lesbian Fiction 2008 edited by Fran Walker. She requested that I review the story, whether or not I read the entire book.
Hibiscus is a short, heart-warming story about a lesbian woman and her partner, at her mother’s funeral. Clearly Ovidia seems to love this theme – story actually reminded me quite a bit of the story she wrote a couple of years ago and read at our Indignation event, Tall Tales and Short Stories, called Pierced Years. Personally, I much preferred Pierced Years to Hibiscus, though both are valuable contributions to the corpus of Singaporean lesbian literature.
But what makes this story different is the closetted homophobic maiden aunt character that is more central than the couple themselves. The character was quite obviously inspired by a “well-loved” persona, and quite hateable in her portrayal, but with a resigned acceptance of her place in the family. Having said that, I found the characterisation too much of a caricature, and perhaps it could have been toned down a little, made more subtle. I also much loved the way blue hibiscuses were used in the story.
Hibiscus stands out for its layered family relationships laced with shades of acceptance. While not Ovidia’s best work, the story is readable. I had a chance to read some of the other stories at random (but not the entire book), and I can say the stories are not too bad – some of them are cliche and sometimes centres too much on the lesbian identity, but as a collection, it is worth having on your bookshelf.
Year’s Best Lesbian Fiction 2008 is available at Books Actually.