Few Westerners escape the images, expectations and misperceptions that lead us to see Asia as exotic, sensual, decadent, dangerous, and mysterious. Despite and because of centuries of East-West interaction, the stereotypes of Western literature, stage, and screen remain pervasive icons: the tea-pouring, submissive, sexually available geisha girl; the steely cold dragon lady dominatrix; as well as the portrayal of the Asian male as effeminate and asexual. These “Oriental” illusions color our relations and relationships in ways even well-respected professional “Asia hands” and scholars don’t necessarily see.
The Asian Mystique lays out a provocative challenge to see Asia and Asians as they really are, with unclouded, deeroticized eyes. It traces the origins of Western stereotypes in history and in Hollywood, examines the phenomenon of yellow fever,’ then goes on a reality tour of Asia’s go-go bars, middle-class homes, college campuses, business districts, and corridors of power, providing intimate profiles of women’s lives and vivid portraits of the human side of an Asia we usually mythologize too well to really understand. It strips away our misconceptions and stereotypes, revealing instead the fully dimensional human beings beyond our usual perceptions. The Asian Mystique is required reading for anyone with interest in or interaction with Asia or Asian-origin people, as well as any serious student or practicioner of East-West relations.