An American Woman's View of the Bangkok Sex World
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 An ex-hippie falls into a gap between the personal and the political in this grimly fascinating yet fatally flawed debut. Odzer, a graduate student in anthropology, was onto something when she came up with the idea of chronicling the lives of women working in Bangkok's red-light district. Their strange naãvetÇ set against a background of bars showing live sex acts (and some, like a ``blow job bar'' that Odzer visits, openly offering paid sexual services) is an intriguing subject. Odzer proves herself a good interviewer and a thorough researcher. Her trips to the poor northern Thailand homes of some of her subjects are heartbreaking: With their ``fine'' clothes and liberated attitudes, the sex workers are seen as glamorous heroes. (Odzer quotes an anecdote about a schoolgirl who praised a teacher with the unlikely compliment, ``You look as pretty as a whore today.'') Odzer's examination of the confluence of money and sex is shrewd, but when she herself becomes involved with a tout (pimp) named Jek, her analytical abilities fly out the window. It's hard to keep a straight face while she coos over receiving a ``McDonald's french fry keyring'' as a gift from her paramour and then becomes disillusioned when he gives an identical one to an acquaintance. And when, immediately after they have engaged in unprotected sex, she is shocked to learn that Jek sometimes sleeps with prostitutes, it is hard to know whether to be horrified or stupefied by her. Clear-eyed about the farang (foreign) men who avail themselves of Bangkok's sex trade and the strange relationships they often develop, mistaking bought sex for love, Odzer is blind to the similar, mutual exploitation in her own relationship. Odzer seems to want sisterhood to be powerful--but what she really aspires to are the privileges of farang men. (40 b&w photos, not seen; 1 map, 7 diagrams) (Book-of-the-Month Club selection)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 1-55970-281-8
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Arcade
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1994