Ho Minfong

Ho Minfong (b. 7 January 1951, Rangoon, Myanmar -), an award-winning author of literature for children and young adults. Ho won the Cultural Medallion Award, the highest arts accolade in Singapore, in 1997. Although Ho is a Singaporean, she has spent most of her life abroad, living in Taiwan, Laos and Cambodia and using them as setting for her stories. She is currently based in the United States.

Early life
Ho Minfong (b. 7 January 1951, Rangoon, Myanmar -), is a Singaporean but has spent most of her life living abroad. Her father, Ho Rih Hwa, was a diplomat, and her mother, Li Lienfung, a chemist and writer. Ho was raised in Thailand in an idyllic countryside, a pleasant childhood that left a deep impression on her adult life and her writing career. She considers Chinese as her first language and the "language of my heart" because as a child her China-born parents had communicated to her both chidingly and lovingly in Chinese. As she grew older, she picked up Thai from the busy streets, marketplaces and temple fairs of Bangkok. Thai then became a functional language, the "language of my hands". She learned English only later on in school, and thinks of it as the "language of my head".

Ho was educated in schools in Bangkok and then in Taiwan. She went on to study economics at Cornell University, USA, where she earned her Bachelor's and a Master's degrees. Her writing career began at Cornell, when she penned her thoughts to overcome homesickness. A compendium of notes about what she missed about home became the basis of her first book, Sing to the Dawn, which was published in 1975. Upon graduating from Cornell, Ho returned to Singapore and stayed there for some time.

International acclaim
Ho has had several professions, as a Straits Times journalist, a lecturer at the University of Chiangmai, Thailand, and the first Writer-in-Residence, University of Singapore (1984). Her marriage to her husband, an environmental consultant, sustained her string of foreign homes, in Asia, Switzerland and the United States, where she is currently based and is a permanent resident. Though she felt comfortable living in Singapore, she did not really regard Singapore as her home. Winning Singapore's Cultural Medallion Award in 1997 however gave some grounding to her local roots.

Ho's first book, Sing to the Dawn, has become a staple literature text for secondary students in Singapore. It was staged as a musical during the 1996 Singapore Arts Festival and is currently being made into a full-length animated movie planned for release in 2005. The animated movie is a result of a collaboration between Raintree Pictures, local digital media studio Silicon Illusions and the Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA).

Ho is also recognised in the United States where she won the prestigious American Library Association (ALA)'s Caldecott Honour Award for her picture book, Hush! in June 1997.

Prizes and awards
First Prize, Council on Inter-racial Books for Children, New York for
Sing to the Dawn.
Parents' Choice Award (USA) and ALA Booklist Editor's Choice for Rice Without Rain (1990).
1982 : First Prize, Ministry of Culture Short Story Writing Competition for Tanjung Rhu & Other Stories.
1983 : First Prize, Annual Short Story Contest, Asiaweek Magazine for The Clay Marble.
1987 : Second, Prose Section, Commonwealth Book Awards.
1988 : NBDCS Book Award for Fiction.
1991 : Best Book for Young Adults, American Library Association.
1991 : New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age Award.
1992: American Bookseller Pick of the List Notable Children's Trade Books in the Language Arts for The Clay Marble.
1992 : Hungry Mind Reviews Children's Book of Distinction for The Clay Marble.
1996 : Southeast Asia Write Award, Thailand.
1997 : ALA's Caldecott Honour Award for Hush!
1997 : Montblanc-NUS Centre For The Arts Literary Award.
1997 : Cultural Medallion Award

1975 : Sing to the Dawn.
1986 : Tanjong Rhu & Other Stories.
1986 : Rice Without Rain.
1992 : The Clay Marble.
1996 : Hush!

Father: Late ambassador and businessman Ho Rih Hwa.
Mother: Late Li Lienfung, writer and former columnist for the long-running bilingual Bamboo Green column in The Straits Times.
Brothers: Ho Kwon Ping, businessman and Singapore Power chairman, and Ho Kwon Cjan, architect.
Husband: John Dennis, an environmental consultant and currently lives in Ithaca, New York.
Children: Danfeng, Tingfung (a.k.a. Chrissy), and Shaofung.

Nureza Ahmad

Sing To The Dawn is being animated. (2003, December 5). The Straits Times.

Ong, S. F. (1997, October 29).
No money for five, but award is symbol of recognition. The Straits Times.

Seah, L. (1997, August 30). A Singapore daughter recognised abroad- Now I better get cracking on that Spore novel. The Straits Times

Seah, L. (1997, August 30). Male impersonator, author recognised. The Straits Times.

Koh, B. S. (1996, June 1).
Festival of Arts 96 - Dawn breaks with a joke and the hint of a tear. The Straits Times.

Preparations before dawn - shedding light on the SRT backstage. (1996, May 30). The Straits Times.

Koh, B. S. (1996, May 17).
A bridge for English and Chinese-speaking Singaporeans. The Straits Times.

HarperCollins Childrens Books. (n.d.). Author Information - Minfong Ho. Retrieved June, 4, 2004, from

Houghton Mifflin Company. (c1995-2004 ). Minfong Ho. Retrieved June 4, 2004, from www.classzone.com/novelguides/authors/ho.cfm

National Book Development Council of Singapore. (2004, June 3). Ho Minfong. Retrieved June 4, 2004, from www.nbdcs.org.sg/Writers/HoMinFong.htm

The information in this article is valid as at 2011 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.

Ho, Minfong, 1951-
Women authors, Singaporean--Biography
Language and literature >> Literatures>>Children's literature

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