The book depicts gay paradises in Southeast Asia and the men who created them. It studies the obstacles gay men have faced in securing a voice as citizens, and how they used images of paradise in Bali, Bangkok, and Singapore to create a sense of refuge, construct homes for themselves, and dissent from typical notions of manhood and masculinity. For gender studies and Southeast Asian studies, it provides a "queer reading" of Walter Spies, a gay German painter who in the 1930s helped turn Bali into an island imagined as an ideal male aesthetic state. Secondly, the book provides a historical account of the absorption of Western notions of romantic heterosexual monogamy in Thailand during the reign of King Rama VI and the resistance to those notions expressed through an architectural paradise called Babylon founded by a Thai known as Khun Toc. Finally, it describes the "cyber-paradise" of Fridae.com created by a young Singaporean named Stuart Koe. Collectively, the study examines the pursuit of sexual justice, the ideologies of manhood they challenged, and the geographic and online spaces they created.
Gary L. Atkins is a professor of communication at Seattle University in the United States. He is the author of Gay Seattle: Stories of Exile and Belonging.
"One rarely reads a book compelling as a thriller yet as probing as a scholarly study. The book is remarkably satisfying, especially in terms of the author’s using disparate landmarks to arrive at a single destination—mapping a new reality of interconnected desires in which cultures, faiths, traditions, and ethnicities overlap by means of a shared sexuality and surreality.
The author demonstrates the interrelatedness of the parallel worlds of 'other' and this magically real world of the Mystery in the lives and achievements of the men whose stories he tells. The writing is so propulsive and authoritative, yet full of poetry and depth, that anyone reading the book will take away something of value." — Grant Hayter-Menzies, author of The Empress and Mrs. Conger
"Homosexuality in Southeast Asia has been studied mostly as developments in individual countries within the region. Atkins has skillfully deployed a storytelling device of several protagonists' common attempts to create a 'paradise' for gay men—Bali, Bangkok and Singapore, or more precisely the space they offered to gay people at a particular period in time. The book contributes to our understanding of the important role that gender issues can play in national politics; more specifically how it can be a weapon used by politicians in their power play. The writer rewards his readers with a richness of details, and stitches his huge canvas of events with literary flair, making it an easy read." — Russell Heng Hiang Khng, author of Outlaws at the Table: Gay Activists in Singapore Civil Society