Book Review | Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East by Benjamin Law

gaysia-review-paiges-pageTITLE: Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East
AUTHOR: Benjamin Law
RELEASE DATE: January 1, 2012
GENRE: Nonfiction, LGBTQI+, Own Voices

Who better to talk about LGBTQI+ life in Asia than Benjamin Law?  Openly gay and born in Australia to Chinese immigrant parents, he approaches Gaysia with concern and respect… not to mention the perfect dose of comedy.  

Gaysia is a journalistic adventure into the LGBTQI+ nerve centre of Asia, from “clothing optional” gay resorts in Bali, to the homes of Chinese gays and lesbians who fake heternormative marriages to keep their identities secret.  Law opened my eyes to a diverse range of socio-political landscapes, all posing unique challenges to the LGBTQI+ community.

I strongly recommend listening to the audiobook version of Gaysia.  While the writing is clear and authoritative, Law’s voice is loaded with charisma.  He gets the balance exactly right – he’s a comedian, but he can nail the serious moments too, seamlessly flowing between different moods.  You can tell he’s a brilliant writer by the way he makes statistics compelling.

As Law travels across Asia, he shares interviews with a diverse cast of characters, from HIV positive sex workers in Myanmar, to trans beauty pageant contestants in Bangkok.  Hearing their stories in their own words is powerful, especially considering these voices are normally silenced.  Listening to them express their personal battles, as well as their relationship with their culture, government, and families, is incredible.  Sometimes the stories are uplifting, but usually the squalor and injustice is heartbreaking.  It really puts the Australian way of life into perspective.

I appreciate how Gaysia covers both ends of the spectrum in its hunt for truth, from wealth to poverty, from people who celebrate their sexuality without fear, to people who are closeted due to threat.  Besides delving into the lives of people with diverse gender and sexual identities, Law even hears from “ex-gay” Christian fundamentalists who campaign to cure “broken sexuality”.  The result of such an inclusive and varied reporting method is that we can piece together a detailed picture of attitudes and beliefs surrounding LGBTQI+ issues.

Regardless of your familiarity with the cultures and issues Law explores, this book is an amazing way to expand your awareness.  Chances are, these issues don’t impact your day-to-day life.  However, understanding the diversity of experiences in the world is so personally enriching.  I hope this book will entertain, inspire, enrage, and educate you as much as it did me.  

If you like this, I recommend For Today I Am A Boy by Kim Fu.



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