Friday, March 30, 2012

queer chinese things!

Zooming in on LGBT issues, about a program in Beijing designed to train lesbian, trans, bi and gay people in creating documentaries about their queer lives.

An article kind of about fear, homophobia and expectations in Chinese culture: Wives of gay men: not an easy job in China.
About 80 per cent of homosexuals in China get married to avoid social pressure. Their wives, who number about 24 million, are not having it easy, but they have started organising themselves.
A talk in London: Activist and film maker talks on gay life in modern China
Gay activist and film maker Xiaogang Wei will be giving a talk in London on how queer activism is changing the face of modern China.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

[books] the secret history of the mongol queens, jack weatherford

The Secret History of the Mongol Queens is an attempt to fill in some of the gaps that can be found in Mongolian history. It’s a comprehensive look at the role of Mongolian Queens in the ruling and establishment of Mongolia and how they advanced its borders over the centuries, starting from the early years of Genghis Khan through seven hundred years of history. It’s a compelling illustration, looking at not only Mongolian history but also touching on the role of historians in erasing those histories of which they don’t approve (here, ladies in ruling and making decisions and being awesome).

I really enjoyed learning about Genghis Khan’s wives and daughters, and the critical role they played in the division and governing of the Mongol Empire. The book gave a lot of insight into Mongolian history centred around Genghis Khan, and not knowing a lot about Mongol history it was a nice introduction for me. And I like lady-centric history!

It’s a shame then that in all the reviews I read of The Secret History of the Mongol Queens, not a one mentioned that the writer was patronising and condescending. Ordinarily when I make these claims I like to have page numbers, but I was reading on my iphone so alas page numbers are not to be. However the author did make a number of sweeping unsubstantiated claims such as the lack of a son was ‘one of the cruelest blows of her life’ (I didn’t note which queen this was in reference to), and the entire epilogue was just about how shocked and surprised he was that Mongolian people knew something about their history that he didn’t, and how he constantly dismissed tales of Mongolian Queens (and Manduhai) as folk tales. Definitely an epilogue that makes me respect him as an historian and researcher. He comments that there were a number of contradictions in the Secret History whilst rarely specifying what they were. The Secret History, incidentally, is an historical Mongolian document, and maybe it was just my epub version but at no point did the author mention what the Secret History was, so there were lots of confusing references to things in the Secret History.

The book also veers from history, and things actually verifiable, to actual made-up storytelling, or at the very least, poetic license, with little distinction between what is what. And rather than this elaboration making what could be a dry historical document interesting and compelling, it just makes it longer and boring.

I’m glad this book exists, I just wish it was written by someone else.

five out of ten penguins