2017 Lambda Literary Award Finalist
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.
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.
Interviews & Reviews
Orientalism and the Tourist Archive: A Conversation with Jai Arun Ravine | Lantern Review (August 25, 2016)
Waves Breaking podcast audio interview with Avren Keating, Episode 6 (July 2016)
A Conversation Between Gabriel Ojeda-Sague and Jai Arun Ravine | Drunken Boat (June 2016)