The well-respected Cornell University scholar of gender studies in Southeast Asia, Tamara Loos, has praised Imagining Gay Paradise as a “innovative, highly readable nonfiction study of masculinity and gay male sexuality.” Writing a review for the American Library Association’s influential “Choice” comments sent to all university libraries, Loos says:
“Deploying biographical sketches as a vehicle, Atkins opens a window onto heteronormative sexual and gender regimes as they affected elite gay men. [He] succinctly and engagingly recounts the linchpin arguments of secondary literature on gender and sexuality in early- to late-20th-century Germany, the Dutch East Indies, Siam/Thailand, and Singapore. Atkins weaves together the impact of and resistance to Western modernity’s “triple supremacy” of romantic, monogamous heterosexuality by those living in empire’s periphery: King Vajiravudh of Siam, German artist Walter Spies in Dutch-occupied Bali, US journalist Darrell Berrigan, Thai entrepreneur Khun Toc, and Singapore cyber activist Stuart Koe. The book is split into two halves organized chronologically. Readers learn about the histories of Siam and Dutch Bali, European art history, contemporary Bangkok, and Singapore through short biographies of individuals who are not necessarily representative of gay men in their respective locales but who are all deeply connected to Southeast Asia and one another through their defiance of normative definitions of manhood.”
She highly recommends the book for both undergraduate and graduate libraries. Loos has written extensively about gender in Siam, most especially in her book , Subject Siam: Family, Law and Colonial Modernity in Thailand.
In addition, “Imagining Gay Paradise” was nominated for the George McT. Kahin Book Prize awarded by the Association for Asian Studies. Unfortunately it didn’t win, but it’s always nice to be noticed!!
The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide this month includes a review of Imagining Gay Paradise, calling the book a “fascinating study” in “how to be gay in Asia.” The Review neatly summarizes the three parallel stories that form the core of the book.
“Atkins,” the Review says, “weaves together history, architectural theories, gender studies, colonial practices, and even Confucian dualities into a compelling narrative that feels like a novel. The book illustrates the remarkable changes in the region’s history through the personal stories of a few unusual men.”
The University of Washington Press has decided to re-issue Gay Seattle in both a paperback and digital edition. I’ve written a long, new preface that updates the themes in the original book from its close in 1994 through 2012…. including details on Washington state’s landmark decision to equalize marriage opportunities for all people regardless of their sexual orientation.
So soon you can have Gay Seattle either a lighter-weight or entirely no-weight book! Stay tuned for more details. The targeted date of release is Spring 2013.
Check out the new cover…
Imagining Gay Paradise has been named to the American Library Association’s “Over the Rainbow” list for 2013, honoring books about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues that “exhibit commendable literary quality and significant, authentic LGBT content.”
The list is intended to provide an annual core selection for readers and librarians who are looking for a cross-section of the year’s titles. The 2013 list includes 84 books published in the 18 months between July 2011 and December 2012. They were selected from 163 titles. For the complete list of books: 2013 Over the Rainbow List.
The latest review of Imagining Gay Paradise: Bali, Bangkok and Cyber-Singapore is in Mandala. It’s an online academic journal so put on your thinking cap if you read it. But the writer has done an interesting job dissecting the book’s theme about the search for gay home in Southeast Asia and relating the theme to various “cultural memes.” Of course, I best like the part where the reviewer refers to “the brilliance of the sweeping yet intimate construct of the book.”Click here to read the review.
Lambda Literary’s just-posted review of Imagining Gay Paradise emphasizes the flow of colonial and global cultures that have helped to create gay spaces and places in Southeast Asia, which is one of the major plotlines in the book. The reviewer, Rachel Wexelbaum of St. Cloud State University, particularly notes the accounts of King Rama VI in early 20th-century Siam, Walter Spies in Bali in the 1930s, and Stuart Koe in Singapore in the past decade. (She calls Stuart’s achievements the “happiest” story in the book which “helped start a movement in Singapore to abolish the old sodomy laws and promote LGBT tolerance”.) While she has a few constructive criticisms to make of my writing, Wexelbaum pronounces Imagining Gay Paradise, a “well-researched, engaging narrative” — and appropriately notes that there are many Stuart Koes in Southeast Asia today “shaping unique LGBT communities and overthrowing centuries of colonial abuse.” To read the entire review, you can click here.
The Bali launch of Imagining Gay Paradise at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival is now scheduled for Thursday afternoon, Oct. 4, from 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. Appropriately, given the book’s partial focus on gay ways of creating a sense of belonging through fusing aesthetics and the body, the launch will be held at the gorgeous Taksu Spa in central Ubud. That’s just a few blocks away from the 1930s home of one of the major characters discussed in the book, artist Walter Spies. To read more about the launch or the festival, click here.
“Out in Thailand” has reviewed Imagining Gay Paradise, calling it “an impeccably documented academic study that also reads like a mystery thriller or almost like an exposé. The book is at the same time a historical study, a social-cultural commentary, analytical biography, and gay study.”
The reviewer keenly zeroes in on the central conflict that drives the book: the conflict between the imposition of the “triple supremacist” ideology of romantic heterosexual monogamy and the dissents of the “triple taboo” that emphasize non-heterosexual, fraternal loves among men. Click here to read the entire review.
The Seattle Times reviewed Imagining Gay Paradise, noting that the book “covers more than a century of progress and defeat in the way homosexuals have been treated [in Southeast Asia], skillfully connecting the stories of artists, anthropologists, businessmen and computer experts.” Click here to see the full review.
A reminder….The next public discussion of Imagining Gay Paradise is scheduled for Saturday, June 23, at Seattle’s Elliott Bay Bookstore. The event, at 2 p.m., is part of Seattle’s LGBTQ Pride weekend. The bookstore is located at 1521 10th Avenue, between Pike and Pine Streets on Capitol Hill.