Saturday, January 4, 2014

#BookReview : Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East by Benjamin Law

On the jacket:

Of all the continents, Asia is the gayest. Deep down, youve probably had your suspicions all along and Im here to tell you those suspicions are correct. So begins Gaysia, Benjamin Laws wildly witty investigation of gay life in the biggest continent. We follow him as he takes an in-depth look at resorts for gay nudists in Bali; transexualism and three formal genders in Thailand; Chinas underground gay resistance; Japan and the most breathtakingly messed-up porn; religious fundamentalists of all persuasions keen on curing homosexuality in Malaysia; sex workers and the spread of HIV in Myanmar; and the decriminalisation of homosexuality, gay pride parades and encounters with gay royalty and a popular spiritual guru in India.  Hilarious, perceptive and poignant, Gaysia is a refreshing look at an aspect of Asia that has gone ignored too long.


I don't know if it's ironic, but this book landed home, the day the uproar over Section 377 began. Personally, it couldn't have arrived at a better time. Someone I had recently follow on twitter had tweeted to straight people who claim to sympathize  with gays, something like - you say you understand, but do you really?

No. Do not, and probably, can not. Because, one needs to be in another person's shoes to understand. I know I am not prejudiced and love my gay & straight friends alike. But I cannot deny, I don't understand their (gay friends) life as well as I understand mine. I also do not understand the point of segregation, based on our sexual desires. Nevertheless, back to the book. 

In Gaysia, Law talks about lives of gays in the East, their lifestyles and culture. It's a kind of a travelogue, covering most of the countries, namely - Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, Burma, China, Malaysia and India. Though, when we read deeper into the book, we notice, more than being a travelogue it is an insight to the cultures and lifestyles. 

The book was an eye opener for me. There is so much I didn't know, and I am pained to know, now. Everyone should read this book, specially every Indian. There is so much we don't know and chose to ignore; yet so much of it is a harsh reality to a lot of people. Quirky and humorous, yet one cannot miss the angst in between the pages. 

Rating: *****/5

[This review is for Random House India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

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