Joan Hon



Joan Hon (b. 1943, Penang, Malaya1) is a writer and former teacher.2 She wrote and published a fiction book, Star Sapphire, under the pen name Han May in 1985.3 She is also the author of a number of non-fiction books, including Relatively Speaking – a biography of her father, the late Finance Minister Hon Sui Sen4 – and Hotel New World Collapse.

Early life
Hon was born into a large but close-knit Hakka family and spent her early years at the family home in the rural community of Balik Pulau, Penang.6 With the Japanese Occupation (1942–45) ongoing at the time, life was hard but she recalled being doted on by family and relatives despite the war situation.7

After the war, when Hon was four years old, her family moved to Singapore as her father resumed his former job in the Straits Settlements Civil Service.8 Hon Sui Sen was a good friend of Lee Kuan Yew’s, who later became Singapore’s first prime minister, and knew Lee’s family well. The Hon family stayed for a period at Lee’s house on Oxley Road after they came to Singapore.9

Hon obtained a Bachelor of Science in Physics from the University of Singapore in 1965, and went on to study for a diploma in education.10  A deeply religious Catholic, as a teen Hon had entertained thoughts of becoming a nun but eventually married and became a teacher.11 She taught for a time at St Joseph’s Institution and wrote physics textbooks for the Curriculum Development Institute of Singapore before becoming a writer.12

Literary career
After the death of her father in 1983 while the latter was still serving as finance minister, Hon began writing a book to chronicle his life. Combining her memories of him with those of her family’s, the eldest child also approached her father’s colleagues to gather their thoughts and recollections of the elder Hon. These colleagues included Lee Kuan Yew and President Tony Tan, who was her former schoolmate. The fruit of her labour, Relatively Speaking, was published in 1984, and received the Commendation for Non-fiction in the 1984 National Book Development Council of Singapore (NBDCS) Book Awards.13

In 1985, drawing on her science background and keen interest in fiction, Hon wrote Star Sapphire, a science-fiction romance novel published under the pseudonym Han May. The book received the “Highly Commended for Fiction” prize in the 1986 NBDCS Book Awards.14

Her other non-fiction works include Hotel New World Collapse (1987) about the disaster that had occurred the year before, and Tidal Fortunes: A Story of Change: The Singapore River and Kallang Basin (1990), which is based on a heritage site. The latter took the “Highly Commended” honour in the 1992 NBDCS Book Awards.15 Led by her Catholic faith, Hon has also authored collections of pilgrims’ experiences of holy site Medjugorje in the former Yugoslavia.16

Works
1984: Relatively Speaking
1986: Star Sapphire
1987: Hotel New World Collapse
1988: 100 Years of the Singapore Fire Service17
1989: A Trip to Medjugorje: Pilgrims Tell of Their Visits to our Lady Queen of Peace18
1990
: Tidal Fortunes: A Story of Change: The Singapore River and Kallang Basin19
1992: The Medjugorje Experience: Stories of Healing and Inspiration20

Awards
1984: Commended Work in Non-fiction for Relatively Speaking, NBDCS.
1986: Highly Commended Work in Fiction for Star Sapphire, NBDCS.
1992: Highly Commended Work in Non-fiction for Tidal Fortunes, NBDCS.



Family21
Parents: Hon Sui Sen and Annie Voon See Chin
Husband: John Fong Hock Sun
Children: Edeline Tet Lin and Micheline Tet Min



Authors
Alvin Chua and Joanna HS Tan



References
1.
Hon, J. (1984). Relatively speaking. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 94. (Call no.: RSING 320.95957 HON.H)
2.
Hon, J. (1984). Relatively speaking. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 19. (Call no.: RSING 320.95957 HON.H); Lum, M. (1993, June 13). To live on a planet called Eden. The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3.
Koh, T. A. (1994). Sing to the Dawn: Novels in English by Singaporean women. In T. B. Kintanar, et al. (Eds.), Emergent voices: Southeast Asian women novelists. Diliman, Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, pp. 75–76. (Call no.: RSING 809.8959082 EME)
4.
Hon, J. (1984). Relatively speaking. Singapore: Times Books International. (Call no.: RSING 320.95957 HON.H)
5.
Hon, J. (1987). Hotel New World. Singapore: Times Books International. (Call no.: RSING 904.7095957 HON)
6.
Speeden, M. (1984, September 8). A disarming portrait of a private man. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7.
Hon, J. (1984). Relatively speaking. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 94. (Call no.: RSING 320.95957 HON.H)
8.
Hon, J. (1984). Relatively speaking. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 97. (Call no.: RSING 320.95957 HON.H)
9.
Hon, J. (1984). Relatively speaking. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 98. (Call no.: RSING 320.95957 HON.H)
10.
Hon, J. (1984). Relatively speaking. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 164. (Call no.: RSING 320.95957 HON.H); Lee, S. H. (1988, March 20). Face to faith. The Straits Times, p. 1; Ngui, C. (1984, September 1). Growing up with Pa. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11.
Lee, S. H. (1988, March 20). Face to faith. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12.
The reactions that amazed a family biographer. (1985, January 27). The Straits Times, p. 33. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13.
Hon, J. (1984). Relatively speaking. Singapore: Times Books International. (Call no.: RSING 320.95957 HON.H); Speeden, M. (1984, September 8). A disarming portrait of a private man. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Obituary – Hon Sui Sen. (1983, October 16). The Straits Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Ong, C. C. (1988, September 13). ‘Star-struck’ writer comes out of the closet. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14.
Ong, C. C. (1988, September 13). ‘Star-struck’ writer comes out of the closet. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Koh, T. A. (1994). Sing to the Dawn: Novels in English by Singaporean women. In T. B. Kintanar, et al. (Eds.), Emergent voices: Southeast Asian women novelists. Diliman, Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, pp. 75–76. (Call no.: RSING 809.8959082 EME) 
15.
Koh, B. S. (1992, September 5). Quality wins the day. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16.
Hon, J. (Ed.) (1989). A trip to Medjugorje: Pilgrims tell of their visits to our Lady Queen of Peace. Singapore: Hope Publishers. (Call no.: RSING 263.04249742 TRI); Lee, S. H. (1988, March 20). Face to faith. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
17.
Hon, J. (1988). 100 years of the Singapore Fire Service. Singapore: Times Books International. (Call no.: RSING 363.378095957 HON)
18.
Hon, J. (Ed.) (1989). A trip to Medjugorje: Pilgrims tell of their visits to our Lady Queen of Peace. Singapore: Hope Publishers. (Call no.: RSING 263.04249742 TRI)
19.
Hon, J. (1990). Tidal fortunes: A story of change: The Singapore River and Kallang Basin. Singapore: Landmark Books. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 HON -[HIS])
20.
Hon, J. (1992). The Medjugorje experience: Stories of healing and inspiration. Singapore: Hope Publishers. (Call no.: RSING 232.9170949742 MED)
21.
Obituary – Hon Sui Sen. (1983, October 16). The Straits Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Hon, Joan, 1943-
Authors, Singaporean--Singapore--Biography
Writers
Women authors, Chinese--Singapore--Biography
Language and literature>>Literatures>>East and Southeast Asian literature>>Singapore literature
Personalities>>Biographies>>Authors

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