Ministry of Moral Panic:

Ministry of Moral Panic

By Amanda Lee Koe

Published by Epigram Books

Fiction Collections



--Winner of Best Fiction Title for Singapore Book Awards 2016]--

--Winner of the Singapore Literature Prize for Fiction 2014]--

--Longlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award 2014]--

--Selected by The Business Times as one of the Top 10 English Singapore books from 1965–2015]--


Amanda Lee Koe (Delayed Rays of a Star) made her mark with this debut collection of short fiction, with tales as colourful as their characters.

Meet an over-the-hill pop yé-yé singer with a faulty heart; two conservative middle-aged women holding hands in the Galápagos, and the proprietor of a Laundromat with a penchant for Cantonese songs of heartbreak. Find out the truth about racial riot fodder-girl Maria Hertogh, now living out her days as a chambermaid in Lake Tahoe; a mirage of the Merlion as a ladyboy working Orchard Towers; and a high-stakes fantasy starring the still-suave lead of the 1990s TV hit serial, The Unbeatables.

Ministry of Moral Panic is an extraordinary collection and the introduction of a revelatory new voice. Heartfelt and sexy, the stories of Amanda Lee Koe encompass a skewed world fraught with prestige anxiety, moral relativism, sexual frankness, and the improbable necessity of human connection. Told in strikingly original prose, these are stories that plough the possibilities of understanding Singapore and her denizens. 



“This is possibly the most exciting debut collection of stories by a Singapore writer I've ever read. Amanda Lee Koe has a breathtaking range. Like crystals, the stories are prismatic—but also jagged. Sometimes they deal with uncomfortable subject matter, like rape, or challenging characters, like a self-mutilating, sexually precocious girl. But this is a writer who takes risks. This is the kind of book that will get under your skin because the author herself has spent devoted hours under her characters’.”
—Alfian Sa’at, author of Malay Sketches

“Witty and wonderfully inventive”
—Clarissa Oon, The Straits Times

“Our winning entry was a unanimous choice, a highly original voice in Singapore writing that we wish to acknowledge and encourage.”
—Dr Meira Chand, chief judge for English Fiction, Singapore Literature Prize 2014

“There is nothing staid or predictable about an Amanda Lee Koe story, and readers expecting another local writer waxing lyrical about the everyday intricacies of HDB life will be pleasantly disappointed. Each story is inventive in its own way, and showcases her astute observational powers and flair for writing in equal parts. [They] break the mould of ones set in Singapore and dealing with Singaporeans, and look set to inspire a new generation of writers by changing their perception of what local short stories can be.”
—Jennani Durai, The Straits Times

“Populated by a diverse and unexpected cast of characters - from maids to Maria Hertogh to the Merlion - Lee Koe's collection of 14 stories questions, changes or expands many accepted notions, myths and memories of Singapore. And it does so in remarkably hip and inventive prose.”
—Helmi Yusof, ‘Tomes that show us how we live’, The Business Times

“There is a deftness of touch, a sureness of intent, a knowingness of accomplishment that makes it hard to believe that Ministry of Moral Panic is Amanda Lee Koe's first book of fiction. She has marked out in virgin territory a realm of her own, a kingdom of weird, non-conforming, stubborn passions in Singapore. And she has done so without resorting to the usual pieties of understanding and tolerance. She has looked directly at the contorted subject and drawn every contortion that she could see...the collection is eminently readable. I should know. I read it straight through—all fourteen stories—on my flight from Singapore to New York. I had not been able to read on a plane for a while. Too uncomfortable and distracted. But these stories carried me to the end.”
—Koh Jee Leong, author of The Pillow Book

“Amanda Lee Koe’s melancholic, often heartbreaking tales of urban malaise are elegies of individual yearnings. At her best, tides of words flow like movements of music, their cadences aspiring towards the magic of poetry. In this debut collection, the author has distinguished herself as a competent, lyrical raconteur.”
—Sam Ng, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore

“[A] magnificent collection of short stories that are as formally innovative as they are profoundly human, compassionate and insightful.”
—Huzir Sulaiman, playwright, in “My Book of the Year”, Singapore Poetry

“No other work I have read in the last two years has bent my head around in such uncomfortable knots, while simultaneously giving off the comforting aroma of familiarity. It pulls off the contortionist act of being dreadfully Singaporean and unSingaporean at the same time–every story, every sentence is in its improper place.”
—Joshua Ip, poet, in “My Book of the Year”, Singapore Poetry

“Exciting, surprising, and so unpredictable in the sense that the stories are never formulaic. At the same time, they are filled with people who get under your skin and move you with their familiar yet eerie tendencies.”
—Lydia Kwa, fiction writer, in “My Book of the Year”, Singapore Poetry

“It really is an incredible collection—the settings of the stories will be deeply familiar to Singaporeans, and yet the emotional territories they explore are vast, and their conclusions devastating.”
—Ng Yi-Sheng, poet, playwright and activist, in “My Book of the Year”, Singapore Poetry

“Authors such as Amanda Lee Koe are beginning to forge a distinctive literary voice for the city-state; her debut collection of short stories addresses questions of Singaporean identity, national memory and myth-making. Lee Koe resists happy endings, and, across several stories, lovers or potential lovers end up separated, or reunited only when it is too late for love to flourish. [But] despite the gloom, in Ministry of Moral Panic are moving testaments to fractured, or unorthodox, lives.”
—Rosie Milne, Asian Review of Books

“Once in a while a book excites me so much that I can't get over the excitement to sit down and continue reading. This is one of them. It is one of the best works in Singapore today and highly recommended.”
—Oh Yong Hwee, author of Ten Sticks and One Rice

“I finished this book in one sitting. It is—for the lack of a better adjective—unputdownable. Evocative and inventive, Amanda brings something new and original to the Singaporean literature scene. She paints her characters so vividly; honest, raw, and flawed. I like how her characters are displayed as quintessentially Singaporean, and that they are also nonconformists, in a sense. They are not merely two-dimensional—they possess a rich layer of personality, with real dreams and desires.”
—Humairah, The Book Jacket

“Fittingly enough, Ministry of Moral Panic, just like the city of gardens, is an exciting collection of beginnings, with uncertain endings far ahead.”
—Ho Lin, Your Impossible Voice

“It’s tempting to label [Lee] Koe a Singaporean Murakami. Her stories, while set in our very familiar city-state, transcend time and space. Clearly, she’s forging not just a distinctive literary voice for Singapore’s contemporary condition, but also a different path for a new generation of writers who will take Singapore fiction to its next chapter.”
—Pamela Ho, The A List