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About the book
  • Published: 1 September 2015
  • ISBN: 9780857986863
  • Imprint: Vintage Australia
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 368
  • RRP: $34.99

Eat First, Talk Later




A dazzling memoir from a talented Malaysian writer about family and home, and a searing portrait of the country of her birth.

A dazzling memoir from a talented Malaysian writer about family and home, and a searing portrait of the country of her birth.

In this riveting memoir Beth persuades her ageing parents on a road trip around their former home, Malaysia. She intends to retrace their honeymoon of 45 years before, but their journey doesn’t quite work out as she planned. Only the family mantra, ‘Eat first, talk later’ keeps them (and perhaps the country) from falling apart. Around them, corruption, censorship of the media, detentions without trial and deaths in custody continue. Protests are put down, violently, by riot police.

Her parents argue, while, lovelorn after the end of a grand amour in Paris, Beth tries to turn their story into a Technicolor love story. Meanwhile, she’s embroiled in a turbulent relationship with an opposition activist, Jing, who is at the forefront of the democratic struggle for change; and in Australia, Beth's second home, she is dismayed to see politicians on all sides focus on turning back the boats, stopping queue jumpers, controlling the borders of 'the lucky country'.

Eat First, Talk Later is a beautifully written, absorbing memoir of a country considered one of the multiracial success stories of South-East Asia, with many fascinating but deeply troubling sides to it. It’s a book about how we tell family and national stories; about love and betrayal; home and belonging; and about the joys of food.

  • Pub date: 1 September 2015
  • ISBN: 9780857986863
  • Imprint: Vintage Australia
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 368
  • RRP: $34.99

About the Author

Beth Yahp

Beth Yahp is an award-winning author, editor and creative-writing teacher of adults and children. She has published short fiction and travel and memoir feature articles in Australia, South-East Asia and Europe. Her novel The Crocodile Fury is translated into several languages and her libretto, Moon Spirit Feasting, for composer Liza Lim, won the APRA Award for Best Classical Composition in 2003.

Beth has worked as an editor and taught creative writing for many years, including at the University of Technology, Sydney, Macquarie University, the American University of Paris, and currently at the University of Sydney. She completed her Doctorate of Creative Arts in travel and memoir writing at the University of Technology, Sydney. She was the presenter of Elsewhere, a program for travellers on ABC Radio National (2010-11).


Praise for Eat First, Talk Later

“A wonderful book about diaspora ... It's a sophisticated book, and an important book right now ... It's also a lot of fun: her parents are great characters ... hers is a terrific story”

Laura Kroetsch, Director of Adelaide Writers' Week

“[Yahp] grazes on subjects as diverse as the many types of tofu available in Asia, Australia’s policy towards refugees and asylum seekers, and ... the musical South Pacific. The result is a complex feast of many dishes, pungent, unfamiliar yet satisfying to both the palate and the mind.”

Caroline Baum, Booktopia

“This sprawling memoir is a bit of a buffet - a huge array beautifully dished up ... The best course is when she dishes up some home truths about our northern neighbour, on corruption and the public peace that is achieved through repression of individuals and information.”

Adelaide Advertiser

“This well-researched memoir is told in a back-and-forth narrative that incorporates important aspects of Malay life: place, food, eating, storytelling, songs, love, religion and tradition. Each section is twisted and plaited through social and political references, corruption, race riots, social distinctions, racial policies and historical narratives.”

Good Reading

“Beth Yahp's beautifully crafted memoir of her ancestors, her parents, and herself ... ranges widely across the region's long and troubled history and politics, its gloriously multifaceted culture, each segment vivid and packed with information ... Travellers through the Malay Peninsula will welcome this portrait of a country which is so much more than an exotic hub, where the tourists usually skim over the surface, rave about the food, complain about the traffic, and depart. Those aspiring memoir-writers fortunate enough to be in Yahp's writing classes will find solace and much to emulate.”

Hilary McPhee, Australian Book Review

“Family histories fascinate if they are about people you know or would like to, and whose voices you can hear, as with Yahp's”

Alison Broinowski, Age

“Eat First, Talk Later is a story steeped in Malaysian culture, politics, language and cuisine. Yahp conjures up the flavours and smells of delicious dishes ... The writing is lyrical ... Yahp's warm and incisive humour inflects her prose as she fills the pages with the rhythms of several tongues ... The layering of political and historical detail throughout will be fascinating and informative for those readers (like me) who know relatively little of twentieth-century Malaysian history”

Sophie Barnes, Sydney Review of Books


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