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This Is What Inequality Looks Like

4.54  ·  Rating details ·  768 ratings  ·  90 reviews
What is poverty? What is inequality? How are they connected? How are they reproduced? How might they be overcome? Why should we try?

This book—an ethnography of inequality—addresses these questions. Formed by a series of essays, they are written to be read individually, but have been arranged to be read as a totality and in sequence. Each aims to accomplish two things: fir
Paperback, First, 288 pages
Published January 2018 by Ethos Books

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4.54  · 
Rating details
 ·  768 ratings  ·  90 reviews

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Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was a little hesitant to add this book to my "read" album here, because it would almost be a declaration of the responsibility i now have for the paradigm-shifting knowledge detailed in the book. But not doing so would be maintaining a blind eye to an issue that we collectively have the power to alleviate. And any Singaporean who still has a stake in this land, cannot and should not be blind. In the issue of inequality, it truly stands to benefit us and our next generations, to care about how ...more
This is a book about inequality in Singapore, based on 3 years' worth of ethnographic research by Teo. In it, Teo seeks to force deeper reflection about the narratives we tell ourselves about inequality and poverty in Singapore - that the story of Singapore is unequivocally one of progress from Third World to First; that while there is poverty (there is poverty everywhere after all), the poor here have it better than their counterparts elsewhere, with roofs over their heads, plenty of government ...more
Judith Huang
In lucid and often beautiful prose, Teo shines a light on low income people in Singapore. A work of elegance and bravery, it should be a must read for anyone who cares about Singapore, and dispels and questions the many myths we base our society on, particularly that the poor are undeserving or a leech on society. Read it!
Apr 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
“The lack of class privilege is about having to play by someone else's rules; the presence of class privilege is about being able to set standards.”

This Is What Inequality Looks Like is a collection of essays on inequality/social classes/poverty in Singapore. We seem to think that poverty isn't as prevalent in Singapore since most low-income persons could apply for rental flats. Hence, rendering them invisible to us.

The author challenged us to think about our privileges and what can be done to
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book speaks to me on so many levels - as a woman (unmarried, and at an age that I probably should); a Sociology graduate; an average income earner; a worker in the social space. I thank the author for this thoughtful piece of work as it had put me on a journey of deep reflection, questioning, and meaningful reconnection with the Sociological perspective.

The author demands the book to be read sequentially, and it is of little wonder, as it starts powerfully with a call to ‘disrupt the narrat
Sharon Lam
Jan 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
It is either you understand the message or think that she is blaming the government. As someone working in the social service, this has been both real as well as enlightening. It reinforces the advocacy spirit that all social workers in Singapore should have.
Sean Goh
Sep 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Singaporeans
Shelves: politics, singlit
To declare that one has read this book, in the words of another reviewer, is to acknowledge that one can no longer turn a blind eye to the shortcomings of our longstanding narratives. It is daunting. It is also necessary.

Meritocracy in sociological literature is widely recognised as a system for sorting and then differentially rewarding people; it is a system for legitimising the process and outcomes of sorting, based on narrow notions of what is worth rewarding.
Meritocracy in Singapore work
ashley c
This is a very, very important book, not just on inequality and poverty, but as a great tool to allow yourself to learn how to be more critical and observant of structural processes and how they interact to influence an individual's life and choices in ways we don't usually think about.

This is a good book for readers at most levels of understanding of social issues such as inequality. A good few points to take away from this book, which Prof Teo has very clearly broken down into digestible piec
Sep 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It brings much needed focus on Singapore's inequality issues to a non academic audience. For far too long, the poor have been criticised as lazy and having poor attitudes without enough scrutiny of the systems we have in place that disadvantage and humiliate them. Hopefully this book will be a call to to look our attitudes towards tackling poverty and inequality in Singapore.
SH Chong
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Best book I’ve read so far on Singapore - for someone interested in public policy and concerned about what we need to do to bring about greater human flourishing here.
Lifern Ang
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A good read that was both refreshing and disturbing at the same time. The fact that this book brought about some discomfort to a Singaporean who was only lucky enough to be born under conditions that allowed comfortable living (that is me) goes only to show the success of this book in shedding light about the realities of poverty and inequality in Singapore that many may be blinded towards. A good reminder to treat all with kindness, respect and dignity, & never be too quick to proudly say “ ...more
Isabella Ow
Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
This collection of essays has made me review my passiveness in being conscious and aware of communities I may not get to mingle with on a frequent basis, the lower income group in Singapore.

The book was down-to-earth in its concerns and easy to read. It's sociology alright, but written in a way that's precise in capturing author Teo You Yenn's observations and reflections. The analyses are drawn from anecdotes, which make them sound less academic.

I like how Teo ends the book by writing about how
Mavis Chan
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: singapore
Illuminating analysis on inequality in Singapore. Through a series of essays, the author explores how structures, narratives, and culture have shaped our current reality. Definite must read for all Singaporeans, particularly those with class privilege. Written from a sociological lens, it was easy to read and absorb the numerous points that challenged our national and personal narratives. Importantly, the author gives a balanced view on who our low income citizens are, what they strive for, and ...more
Shu Jun Tay
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"To be young and middle class is to be able to delay autonomy, to hold off responsibility toward others, to be given the benefit of the doubt when one makes mistakes, to have time to learn, to live under parental protection until one is ready to fly. Youth from low-income families do not have the luxury of time to ride this stage out."

"We need that book because all our friends have it and have been talking endlessly about it. We have a wallet but it’s now old and a little embarrassing to bring o
Muneerah Razak
Sep 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is important - it highlighted, using simple language and story telling, the face of poverty and inequality in Singapore that is often hidden and ignored. It changed alot of my perspectives about national narratives such as meritocracy etc. The only issue I had was that I felt that alot more could be said about race, instead of merely looking at class and the system surrounding it.
Nonetheless, it is an important book for all to read.
Jul 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
interesting interesting especially because i've been thinking that we don't really love our country as The Country (bc so abstract right) but rather we love a version of our country (as in, our immediate community that figures as Home) vs this book raising individualism (as in fighting for yourself/your family, act for yourself and never be dependent on others for help, and if you succeed you have deserved it by merit of your fight) as smth inherently bound up with the latent idea that people wh ...more
Sheng Yang Teo
Jan 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Glad to start 2019 with this book.

The author has shown us with her research with real life examples on many a time, we are not seeing the complete picture and jumped into conclusion. Also, how inequality and circumstances often play a part in shaping one's life. However, instead of Equality, we should aim for Equity.

Borrowing a quote from another novel, “Equality is treating everyone the same. But equity is taking differences into account, so everyone has a chance to succeed.”.
Sep 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
A must-read. A nuanced look at income inequality and the struggle of the poor in Singapore.
Oct 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“Why am I inserting myself so much in what I write? This is not typical practice in academic writing. It is actually tremendously uncomfortable. I insert myself because as I get deeper and deeper into this research, I see that this is key to shifting our lenses for viewing inequality and poverty more fully”

This quote sums up the reason why I love this book. Inequality, privilege, poverty, class, race. These are topics not openly discussed in Singapore, conveniently swept under the rug of igno
Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A book for every Singaporean. A good take on the situation from a sociologist's POV.
Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Thank you for the uncomfortable revelations. They were very thought-provoking. I liked the overall tone as well - empathetic and not overly angsty compared to some other activists. It was easy to read and digest.

Deducting 1 star: Most of the time I felt as though I was reading "This Is What Poverty Looks Like". I think inequality can be examined in more aspects, for e.g. how national policies/laws have varying impact on people of different nationalities, family types, sexual orientation, etc.
Justin Lau
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An eye-opening must-read for all Singaporeans.
Nov 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
this should be required reading. my favourite chapter is 'airing dirty laundry'.
Apr 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An important perspective on inequality and poverty in Singapore that I highly recommend all Singaporeans to read.

After reading the book, if you felt disheartened like I did, read this from the chapter of ‘Now What’.

“First, we have to do what we can wherever we happen to be located: all acts are meaningful as long we take them. Second, what effect we ultimately have will we because we do not act alone.”

Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was a great title for a book. Immediately caught my attention and I thought I had to read it. Then I realised it was by a Singaporean author. And I changed my mind.

A week passed. Two. Four. Eight. Eventually, I purchased a copy because I was just damn intrigued. And having read it I wasn't disappointed - this book gave me a glimpse of a Singapore I just never quite thought about. From a middle-class family raised with middle-class friends and reading about middle-class sensibilities, Teo in
May 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: the-best
lucid. this is the one word that unreservedly came in triumphant when i attempted to capture my feelings towards the book. the prose is beautifully lucid, and same can be said about your state of mind as the author dispels the clouds of assumptions that you held for long and shielded your eyes, and shine a incisive torch of light towards the hidden truth

i have to thank milton for first introducing me to the book in jan (i remember feeling so intrigued by the translucent tracing paper book cover,
May 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I haven't read a book that stirred so many emotions in me for a long time. I have students who live in those rental neighbourhoods so compellingly described by You Yenn, so her essays feel like a culmination and affirmation of all the insights I have gained along the way from trying to understand my students and their complex family backgrounds. While I read this book, I felt all these emotions: pity, empathy, helplessness, hope, and (dare I say it) renewed patriotism. Through it all, You Yenn's ...more
Tan Jing Ling
Jun 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book does not just show what inequality looks like. It lights a flame on middle-class privilege, on a well-intended-but-wrong-footed national narrative, on bureaucracy, on the tuition industry, on the systemic flaws of welfare schemes in SG, on the ethos of dignity, and on the cracks in a nation’s humanity.
Jun 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fav
This is such an important book on Singapore that everyone needs to read.

I appreciate that You Yenn set her sights on inequality as a whole and not just on poverty.

Unlike academic journal articles, You Yenn's book is largely readable and understandable. Her essays are thick with her own personal reflections of her own experience alongside the realities of the low income in Singapore. Instead of diluting their lived experience, her pairing of reflections left me to reflect on my privileged experi
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“low-income parents find themselves having to do this immensely difficult thing: they have to tell hteir kids to listen to them and yet also send them the message “don’t be like me.” It is difficult to exercise authority under these conditions. To have one’s parenting practices be unintelligible, unacknowledged, deemed less worthy, is a profound form of attack on the self, especially when being a parent is a central part of one’s identity.” 1 likes
“They allow us to feel like we belong to the groups we care about, that we are rooted in, and that we need respect, acceptance and love from. As the title of (Allison) Pugh’s book suggests – we long for things because we long to belong.” 1 likes
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