“Innovative, highly readable” study

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.

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