All posts by garyatkins

Gary L. Atkins is an award-winning journalist whose works include the critically acclaimed Gay Seattle: Stories of Exile and Belonging and his new book, Imagining Gay Paradise: Bali, Bangkok and Cyber-Singapore. He specializes in creative non-fiction journalism, fusing an easy-to-read narrative style powered by strong characters with questions about history, geography, communication, and social justice. Gay Seattle follows the 100-year-long saga through which gay men and women imagined their “coming home” – rather than just their “coming out” -- in the context of the Pacific Northwest’s famously wet landscape and roguish history. Similarly, Imagining Gay Paradise journeys through a century of imaginings of paradise and manhood by gay men in the tropical geography of Southeast Asia. The story stretches from the end of the colonial empires to the present world of cyberspace, ranging across the development of the aesthetic paradise of Bali in the 1920s and 1930s to the erotic paradise of Bangkok fostered from the 1960s onward, and to the cyber-paradise promoted since the 1990s in Singapore. Gay Seattle was published by the University of Washington Press in 2003 and received numerous accolades for its fusion of journalism and scholarship, including a Washington State Book Award and a national Jesuit Book Award. The University of Hong Kong Press is publishing the hardback edition of Imagining Gay Paradise and is joined by Silkworm Press of Thailand as co-publishers of the paperback edition. Imagining Gay Paradise is also being made available as an e-book. Gary first became interested in writing about age six when his parents gave him a rubber-type printing press. He immediately started producing a newspaper for his local neighborhood in New Orleans. In high school, he initially thought he might become a historian or a biologist – two other strong interests – but eventually he realized that if he entered journalism, he could write about all three of his interests: current political and legal events, history, and nature. He graduated from Loyola University and then Stanford University, served an internship on the Washington Post and joined the Pulitzer-winning Riverside Press-Enterprise in California -- where he won numerous awards for his narrative and environmental reporting and writing. Seattle University hired him to teach in and chair its Communication Department and, in 2005, named him a full professor. He teaches courses in narrative journalism, communication justice, media and sexual/gender justice, and international communication in Asia.

Nigel Collett, an esteemed book reviewer for the Asian Review of Books, the Tongzhi Literary Group in Hong Kong, and, recently commented on Imagining Gay Paradise, saying:

“Atkins does not make this book a chronological series of biographical tales, but intersperses them, one with the other, to bring out the way the history of such unconnected lives resonates with similar themes… His background in media studies has given him a racy, journalistic style of writing that strongly and clearly carries his narrative lines. His prose is thankfully unencumbered by the impenetrable ‘Queer Theory’ style of English…You can read Atkins with pleasure and without having to lug a dictionary around with you.”

Collett is the author of The Butcher of Amritsar, the acclaimed biography of General Reginald Dyer who, in 1919, marched a squad of soldiers into the holy city of Amritsar, India, and shot down over 200 who had gathered to hear political speeches.

You can read his entire review of Imagining Gay Paradise at

Next Gay Paradise public discussion

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. It should be great fun . . . and afterwards you can go to all the Saturday night parties (and/or the Seattle Men’s Chorus concert).

The book’s Indonesian launch will occur at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival Oct. 3-7. Check back for more details as those are announced.

Great U.S. launch turnout

Gary (l) conversing with Prof. Barry Mitzman

A great turnout for the launch party at Seattle University… about 100 people… I talked about the motivations for writing Imagining Gay Paradise. . . the respondent, Dr. Sam Boerboom, delved further into the supremacist combination of romantic, heterosexual monogamy. We both seemed to agree that academic terms such as “hetero-normativity” do not clearly express the type of supremacist ideology that was at work when Siam was being forced to comply with European notions of what constituted “civilized” relationships.

The next scheduled reading in Seattle will be at the Elliott Bay Bookstore on Pride Weekend — Saturday June 23 at 2 p.m.

Upcoming Imagining Gay Paradise events

For those living near the Seattle area, I’ll be reading from and discussing my new book Imagining Gay Paradise at Seattle University on Thursday evening, April 12. The focus will be on the age-old notion of a “search for home” — that plot line of struggle and human creative endeavor we all  know so well from stories like the Odyssey.  My previous book, Gay Seattle, treated the same theme — but, of course, imagining a home in the soggy Pacific Northwest is considerably different from imagining one in tropical paradises. I’ll be comparing and contrasting the approaches used in the two geographic areas. And, we’ll be talking about writing and what techniques come into play in book-length narrative journalism.

During LGBTQ Pride Month in Seattle, Elliott Bay Bookstore will be hosting a reading at 2 p.m. Saturday June 23.  Other discussions in Bangkok, Singapore, Bali, and Amsterdam are currently being organized. I’ll post those as they are scheduled.

At the Seattle University reading, a colleague who teaches courses in LGBTQ rhetoric, Dr. Sam Boerboom, will also be on hand to discuss his insights about how sexually marginalized groups have to re-imagine their homelands since they are often shut out of those imagined by others.

The event starts at 7 p.m. at SU’s Commons on the 5th floor of the Casey Building and runs until 9 p.m. It’s being co-sponsored by the university’s Communication Department, International Student Center, and Asian Studies program and has been organized by Dr. Mara Adelman — who, as everyone at Seattle U knows, always does a fabulous job of making sure there are great snacks to go along with the conversation! The event is open to the public.

Gay Paradise arrives

Good news….both the paperback and hard covers of “Imagining Gay Paradise” are now available from online distributors throughout the world (Amazon, Kinokuniya, Barnes and Noble, Eurospan, etc) as well as from the publishers and distributors (Hong Kong University Press, Silkworm Books, Columbia University Press, University of British Columbia Press).

Select bookstores are also carrying the paperback.

Amazon has immediate downloads to your Kindle, your Kindle app, or your computer.  Libraries that belong to Project Muse can also provide quick access since paradise has been digitalized there too!

One of the first readings and discussions has been scheduled at my home base, Seattle University, April 12, 7-9 p.m. Stay tuned for more details about that and future readings and discussions, particularly in Bali, Bangkok, Singapore, and Amsterdam.

Walter Spies, the gay German artist who is one of the main characters in the book, died 70 years ago this past January, victim of a Japanese bomber off the coast of Indonesia. It’s appropriate then that a book now tells more about his life as a queer man. The book includes many new details about the Nazi-inspired “morals scandal” that cost Walter the aesthetic paradise of Bali that he had posed as a counter to Hitler’s ideals of manhood.

Walter’s is just one of the stories the book tells about gay men imagining a home in Southeast Asia and, as the book’s opening sentence says, founding a paradise instead. There are details about Khun Toc, who set up the internationally famous erotic paradise of Babylon in Bangkok, and about Stuart Koe, who created and its Nation parties — a cyber-paradise based in Singapore.

Buy Imagining Gay Paradise from, Barnes & Noble, Columbia University Press, Hong Kong University Press, Silkworm Books, Kinokuniya Thailand, Kinokuniya Singapore, University of British Columbia Press, Eurospan

Add Imagining Gay Paradise to your Goodreads:

Imagining Gay Paradise: Bali, Bangkok, and Cyber-Singapore