Books

The Romance of Siam

The Romance of Siam

2017 Lambda Literary Award Finalist

The Romance of Siam by Jai Arun Ravine (Timeless, Infinite Light 2016)

The Romance of Siam by Jai Arun Ravine (Timeless, Infinite Light 2016)

The Romance of Siam: A Pocket Guide is a subverted travel guide that interrogates the desire white people have to lose and reinvent themselves in Thailand. Ravine tracks how this “white love” manifests in the tourism industry, popular American media and the western imaginary.

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Praise for The Romance of Siam

It’s a lonely planet for the white alien, but let Jai Arun Ravine stage your hysteric dream tour. Navigating Siam’s dream jungle might require mounting white elephants, hunting nasty cats and exotic tigers, consuming stinky tropical durian. Too tame? Too cliche? Then stage your disappearance from whiteness and pop culture disfigurement: dance a threesome with Yul, Anna, and Christy; share a bed with Somerset and Haxton, hang yourself by silk threads from pagoda rafters, gild yourself in gold before mummification.

-Karen Tei Yamashita

It is difficult to describe the experience of reading The Romance of Siam. It is impossible to describe the experience of constitution in a body that disappears under direct gaze. The Romance of Siam is an unqualifiable “Death by Dream.” What is the essence of Siam? To ask that question is to ask what the essence of whiteness is. It is the parable of the blind men and the universal white elephant. At the moment of conception/colonial desire, the “abject” of identity is already lost. A dream dies when it comes true.

-Feng Sun Chen

Jai Arun Ravine’s Siam is a mesmerizing land of Cheshire-cat smiles: a sly, feverishly antic journey through a détournement of pop songs and travel television shows, labyrinthine reimaginings of The King and I and W. Somerset Maugham, and rapid-fire sestinas of lifted tourist lingo unfolding like tropical flowers ready to bite. Is Thailand an actual place in Asia, a mythologized theatre of longing, or some uncanny hybrid of both? Beyond questions of authenticity, beyond discourses of identity underlying this outré trip, The Romance of Siam reveals Ravine as an exuberant DJ of culture shock who unleashes a boundless capacity for self-reinvention.

-Pamela Lu

Interviews & Reviews

Entropy Magazine’s Best of 2016

Review by Jenny Drai for Drunken Boat

Orientalism and the Tourist Archive: A Conversation with Jai Arun Ravine | Lantern Review (August 25, 2016)

Audio interview with Avren Keating for the Waves Breaking podcast, Episode 6 (July 2016)

A Conversation Between Gabriel Ojeda-Sague and Jai Arun Ravine | Drunken Boat (June 2016)

แล้ว and then entwine

and then entwine - cover

แล้ว and then entwine

Tinfish Press (2011) | Guest edited by Craig Santos Perez

Also available from Small Press Distribution


Note from the Publisher

This powerful first collection by Thai American writer Jai Arun Ravine pulls itself and its readers across geographies, cultures, languages, identities, and genders in a performance of transformation. Ravine weaves Thai and English, the past and the present, the lyric and the narrative, into a hypnotizing poetic dance. Additionally, Ravine explores the documentation of identity and citizenship through re-articulating charts, pages of a child’s composition book, and a birth certificate. This collection explores the seams of identity and origin and how they are painfully and beautifully entwined.


Reviews

JH Phrydas | Something on Paper (November 19, 2013)

Susan M. Schultz | New thresholds, new anatomies! Trans-pacific gender / genre in work by Jai Arun Ravine, Eileen Tabios and j/j hastain | Jacket2 (April 20, 2012) and discussed in Schultz’ essay for AALR 2012: Generations, re-posted on Tinfish Editor’s Blog

Craig Santos Perez | The publication of Jai Arun Ravine’s แล้ว and then entwine (August 12, 2011)

Margaret Rhee | Our Subversive Anatomies: The Embodied Feminist Poetics of Jai Arun Ravine | Delirious Hem (May 18, 2010) [Rhee responds to earlier versions of segments of the book]


Praise for แล้ว and then entwine

“It starts with a rope, a body pulling itself mightily despite (and beyond) external and internal strains.

Then the journey stretches, splinters and transcends, chronicled and evoked with such dexterity and experimentation. In his remarkable first collection, Jai Arun Ravine has created a narrative swelling with beautiful, heart-rendering collisions. Languages—Thai, English—and documents—charts, pages of a child’s composition book, a birth certificate—define and defy meanings, margins. What is foreign is pitted against a cultural past. The myriad juxtapositions: of body and geology, of body swallowing body, gender and transformation, all history and livelihood. This collection is hypnotic, anthropologic, and in itself an act of reclamation.”

Joseph O. Legaspi

“In แล้ว and then entwine, what is real feels surreal and magical but believing in it happens as naturally as breathing.

Through ingenious physicality — be it in words, shapes, sounds, or forms — Jai Arun Ravine invites us to journey cross a few different kinds of ocean. Geologically, the poet takes us inside a home located in two continents, and linguistically, the poet converses with us in a language that navigates and develops, simultaneously, between what is odd and familiar. Though not all readers may understand every word in แล้ว and then entwine, they are sure to realize that this poetry is of superb engineering and genuine longing for a discovery of one’s difficult self.”

Padcha Tuntha-obas

แล้ว and then entwine is a skin that once peeled from Ravine’s body took the form of language.

Inscribed on pieces of rice paper, Thai lesson workbooks and notebook pages, this text hung on the walls of our apartment in Boulder, CO. แล้ว and then entwine is born out of Ravine’s divine and dangerous rite of passage from a half-Thai ballerina dancing in the hollers of West Virginia to a trans-shaman-prince-warrior in the form of Ram who dares to probe beyond the silence and speak hir mother (‘s) tongue. These words are not extended poem or anti-novel, but incantation. Ravine carried Ram to term and I helped coax the boi-child as midwife with the harmony of a shruti box and a congress of ravens. Pieces were conjured over a pot of simmering curry, stringy meats and steaming jasmine tea and in empty rooms where we danced to the sound of Thai vowels and embodied rock, rope and sea.”

Marissa L. Perel

“Jai Arun Ravine’s แล้ว and then entwine is gorgeously seductive in its multiple sonic and visual fields of symmetrically balanced lyric narratives, striking [cuts], interposed by poetic explorations layered in charts, documents, and workbooks.

Ravine peels back the nature of a contemporary identity, pulling the reader through a relentless charting of the body through Thai culture, language, cuisine, landscape, and, ultimately, poetic origin. The genius of this book is in not only how it pulls, but in how Ravine directs, pointing us gracefully to that which exists ‘in the motor capacities, to gears and apparent skeletal architectures’ where voice and ‘perception gravitate.'”

Ronaldo V. Wilson

IS THIS JANUARY

Is This January - Cover

IS THIS JANUARY

Corollary Press (2010)

THE SPIDERBOI FILES

THE SPIDERBOI FILES

Volume 1 (Self-published, 2009-2011), Volume 2 and 3 (Self-published, 2014)

The Spiderboi Files Volume 1

The Spiderboi Files - Volume 1 Chapbooks

The Spiderboi Files - Rodent

The Spiderboi Files began in August 2007 after I moved to San Francisco. Having completed an intensive, long serial work that took up the greater part of that year, I was eager to begin writing within the parameters of a radically different practice.

I started by cutting up kari edwards’ a day in the life of p. and obedience with old journal entries and mashing them with that particular day’s experience of being a gender-variant queer stuck in a random mall job in the middle of suburban California. I shoplifted structures from that environment and stole overheard text. I was inspired by the idea of “files” or case studies as segments of a larger whole (The X-Files and Max Wolf Valerio’s The Testosterone Files), as well as by the idea of documenting my ongoing confrontations with gender assumption. I also wanted to expose and confuse my own trans-identification with consumer culture’s promise of providing the power to choose and create identity.

I decided to write and complete one poem per day in a rather rough and imperfect manner. After several months I had collected about 50 some pages of Spiderboi’s journey, a character that draws from the power of the Spider and the Web as well as the popular Spiderman, a young man bitten by a Spider (a symbol of creative, feminine energy) and thus transformed. The super-hero archetype became a way to explore gender transition and gender transformation in relation to the desire to be fully embodied.

In late 2007 and early 2008 I began the process of inking the poems out into panels. I was further intrigued by the idea of a graphic poem-novel and the “Choose-Your-Own-Adventure” novels I remember reading as a kid. I wanted to explore the idea of “choice” in relation to gender (versus sexuality) by placing that choice in the hands of the reader in the exact places in which those choices were difficult for me.

The result is a living document of my first year living in San Francisco and identifying as trans. Through poetry, spoken word, graphic novel, web comic, and hand-sewn chapbook, the web of Spiderboi is the force-field a gender-variant person must build to envelop themselves in the strength that allows for change, individuation and transformation.

The Spiderboi Files, Volume 1 (Hand-bound using found and recycled materials, includes 5 panel poems), contains [rodent, [freebox cunt, [THE EMBARCADERO, [add your difference and [anachronistic. [THE EMBARCADERO and [freebox cunt contain cut-ups from kari edwards’ obedience.


Reviews

“Exploring Gender in an Unexpected Package” by Emerson Whitney | Hyperallergic (October 24, 2011)

Graphic Poetry Spotlight by Craig Santos Perez | Poetry Foundation’s Harriet the Blog (March 16, 2010)

Exhibition and Publication History

THE SPIDERBOI FILES, Volume 1 chapbook, Handmade/Homemade Exhibit 2011, Pace University, Westchester (March 2011)

[theridion grallator, [unisex and [princess or soldier (panels) in Masculine Femininities Zine, Issue 4 (December 10, 2010)

[nausea of night (panel) in Drunken Boat #12 (2010)

[berdache (text form) in Here is a Pen: An Anthology of West Coast Kundiman Poets (Achiote Press, 2009)

[cute little dyke (panel) in Queef Zine (Issue 1, 2009)

[rodent and [anachronistic, UC Berkeley Queer + Asian Conference Art Exhibition, Berkeley (May 2, 2009)

IT ALL STARTED WITH A BOY WHO COULD CLIMB WALLS AT NIGHT (The Spiderboi Files), Fresh Meat in the Gallery, San Francisco (2008)