In June 2018, Hong Kong Public Libraries removed ten children’s books with LGBTQ+ themes from regular shelves in the face of pressure from an anti-gay group in Hong Kong. The group accused the library of promoting “homosexuality” and “cross-dressing” by making the books openly available. Now, readers must submit personal information to access the books, which have been hidden in closed stacks.
In response, artist-curator Kaitlin Chan (who is also a member of Still / Loud) and independent publisher Beatrix Pang joined forces to create Queer Reads Library — a mobile collection of internationally-sourced queer publications and zines, with topics from North American queer theory to Japanese queer street culture.
Since its inception in September 2018, the Queer Reads collection has been showcased at venues including CultureFest, art book in China, Tai Kwun Contemporary’s Art After Hours, Migrant Pride Parade, and Human Progress Festival at Eaton Workshop.
Ahead of the library’s next appearance at Tai Kwun Contemporary’s Art Book Fair (January 11-13), the co-founders shared with us a selection of their favourite titles — so that you can add these to your reading list for 2019.
A Whore Diary by Akira the Hustler (Isshi Press, 2000)
I stumbled upon A Whore Diary in the discount section of a museum bookstore in Tokyo in 2015. How delighted I was to find neon-tinted, out of focus analogue photos of Akira, his clients and his boyfriend accompanied by irreverent and moving reflections from his daily observations as a queer sex worker. There is something very loving about this book: perhaps it is its rounded corners, the rainbow palette, or the way that Akira never flinches away from the truth that sex is a form of power. — KC
Fat Shame by Joel Tan (The Substation, 2017)
Published by The Substation, Fat Shame features an essay by the Singaporean playwright Joel Tan alongside portraits of himself in drag, shot by Crispian Chan. Tan’s essay is a searing and precise examination of how the fat individual, who is already shamed by contemporary media culture, is doubly targeted within the hyper-masculine context of Singapore’s mandatory National Service for citizens assigned male at birth. I love how Tan collages autobiographical and non-fiction writing to map out possibilities for a fat, queer existence far beyond shame. — KC
GenderFail: An Anthology on Failure (GenderFail, 2018)
Based out of New York, GenderFail released their Anthology on Failure in October 2018. I am so grateful for their critical intersectional analysis, and this collection of voices speaks to how gender relates to labour, race, class, incarceration, national security and even graphic design in surprising and rigorous ways. Their anthology confronts urgent issues with tenderness, and takes a refreshingly cross-disciplinary approach by bringing together poets, visual artists, researchers, activists and writers. — KC
The History of Homosexuality in China by Xiaomingxiong (Pink Triangle Press, 1984)
Note from Queer Reads Library: unfortunately this title went missing after a recent exhibition, but we hope to get another copy soon!
Xiaomingxiong 小明雄 is the pen name of Ng Siuming 吳小明, also known as Samshasha, an influential writer and historian of homosexuality in China. After publishing his first gay liberation Chinese publication, “A Chinese Gay’s Manifesto” (1980), Samshasha spent five years preparing for the publication of The History of Homosexuality in China. This was followed by the release of underground newsletter “Pink Triangle” (1981) and the book “Twenty-five Questions about Homosexuality” (1981).
The History of Homosexuality in China contains surprising insights. For example: Samshasha shows that the phrase tongzhi 同志 or “comrade” — which has been repurposed in recent decades as a positive term for lesbian and gay people — may have much earlier queer connotations. In the new edition of this book, Samshasha points out how 同志 was used in some Ming Dynasty poems to describe unusually close bond between friends of the same gender. This idea alone shows how much more we need to explore about our own queer Chinese history. — BP
Edward Lam on Love by Edward Lam (Chen Mi Ji Cultural Production Co. Ltd., 2002)
Edward Lam was one of the few openly gay figures in the local Hong Kong cultural scene I learned of during the 90s. I got to know the works of Lam through his plays (Edward Lam Dance Theatre) and his articles on media. While I was in university, I read Edward Lam on Love, which offered stories about everyone’s struggles with love. His sensitive writings — which include self-reflections and confessions — are dedicated to all lovers, gay or straight. — BP
MISSIONARY, issue 01 by DaddyGreenBASEMENT (DaddyGreenBASEMENT, 2018)
I got to know Jason Yu and his partner from MISSIONARY Magazine this November during art book in China 2018 in Shanghai. These two tall guys fully clothed in black, with cool but pretty faces, looked at Kaitlin and I from their booth. Then Jason gave a warm smile and introduced us to the magazine.
MISSIONARY highlights contemporary voices from the underground gay community in China: “In Chinese media context, sex and sexuality are still taboo topic[s], mostly, let alone gay people’s sex,” writes MISSIONARY on Instagram. The first issue of MISSIONARY, called “Public,” tries to bring stories about sex into the open as a first step to understanding the life of gay people of this generation. — BP
Queer Reads Library will be exhibiting next at “Booked”, Tai Kwun Contemporary’s Art Book Fair, on 11-13 January 2019 in Tai Kwun. Tickets are 20 HKD. Still / Loud’s Wilfred Chan contributed editing this piece.