Loh, Vyvyane

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LOH, Vyvyane


Born in Ipoh, Malaysia; married Mauricio Toledo. Education: Boston University, bachelor's degree; Boston University Medical School, M.D., 1993; Warren Wilson College, M.F.A., 2001.


Home—Watertown, MA. Agent—Brettne Bloom, Fish and Richardson, 225 Franklin St., Boston, MA 02110.


Physician, choreographer, musician, and writer. Has worked as a physician at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Newton, MA; Health Management Resources Corp., Auburndale, MA; and in private practices. Artistic director of modern dance company Carmina Lucida; has also choreographed shows for other companies, including Wellesley College Dancers and Lowell House Opera.


Breaking the Tongue (novel), W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 2004.


Vyvyane Loh, a physician, drummer, dancer, and choreographer, was able to add "published author" to her career accomplishments with the historical novel Breaking the Tongue. Loh had long been interested in writing; during her undergraduate years at Boston University, she wrote poetry and spent a summer at the International Yeats School in Ireland, where her studies included a workshop led by the Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney. While a medical resident, she wrote bits of stories whenever she had free time. She eventually won a scholarship to a creative writing program at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina, and in this program she developed the first draft of her novel.

Breaking the Tongue is set in Singapore, where Loh grew up; her family moved there from Malaysia when she was five years old. The book takes place in 1942, when Japan's army has invaded and captured the city, which was a British colony at the time. A young man, Claude Lim, is undergoing interrogation and torture by the Japanese. While trying to avoid answering his captors' questions, he looks back on his life as the son of Chinese parents who adopted the English language and customs, and in doing so he contemplates his identity. Loh "explores such concepts as loyalty to one's family and country, the place of language in culture, and the roles of race, racism and ethnicity in how we perceive ourselves and others," noted Lisa See in the Washington Post Book World. Boston Globe reviewer Judy Budz made a similar observation, noting that Loh "is writing about the collision of Western manners and Eastern values, the intersection of language and identity." Budz added that there is "much to admire in this novel." A Publishers Weekly contributor found Loh's writing occasionally cliched, but still thought the novel "a solid and moving accomplishment." A Kirkus Reviews commentator summed up the book as "one of the most ambitious and accomplished debut novels in recent memory."



Booklist, February 1, 2004, Vanessa Bush, review of Breaking the Tongue, p. 950.

Boston Globe, April 13, 2004, David Mehegan, "She's All That: Vyvyane Low, Physician, Dancer, Musician, Has Achieved the Title She Always Aspired To: Writer," section E, p. 1; April 25, 2004, Judy Budz, review of Breaking the Tongue, section D, p. 7.

Entertainment Weekly, March 19, 2004, Rebecca Ascher-Walsh, review of Breaking the Tongue, p. 70.

Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2004, review of Breaking the Tongue, p. 9.

Library Journal, February 1, 2004, Christopher J. Korenowsky, review of Breaking the Tongue, p. 124.

Publishers Weekly, February 2, 2004, review of Breaking the Tongue, p. 59.

Washington Post Book World, March 28, 2004, Lisa See, "About Face: One Chinese Family's Identity Crisis during the Japanese Invasion of Singapore," p. 7.


Vyvyane Loh Home Page, http://www.vyvyanelow.com (September 13, 2004).*