Joe Farley / Review
Sex & Taipei City by Yun-Han Chao
Red Hen Press, Pasadena, CA, www.redhen.org
2019, 196 pages, US $15.95
Bawdy and tragic, Taipei in Taiwan is not New York City. There is more Confucian shame than Taoist ecstasy. In these tales of love, lust and relationships gone awry, Yun-Han Chao portrays a city and culture of secret desires, hidden passions, and endless regret. Ancient sex tortures are displayed for tourists while the locals fear or fail to understand their own sexual needs. Students rent their bodies for extra income. Married couples stumble over tradition, careers, and libidos. Divorced women try to conceal relationships. Money is tight for most people. Everyone is expected to work hard and achieve excellence. Self discipline, obedience, and purity is expected, especially for women who can easily become “a worn out shoe,” ineligible for marriage, if they yield to their desires. Men can and do get away with more, unless they are gay. Gay men are caught in a cycle of shame and denial caused by society's strictures. It is only in old age, a time of veneration, that some can openly indulge, such as the grandfather with a touch of dementia who is addicted to Japanese porn and massages.
Born in Taiwan, Chao attended the National Taiwan University. Later she earned an MFA in fiction from Penn State University. She currently lives in California. Chao’s style is readily accessible. The stories flow as do their twists and turns. Chai is also a poet and visual artist. A sample painting can be found on the cover. Her poetry background reflects in some of her phrasing and imagery which adds to the pleasure of this collection. I recommend this short story collection as one worth reading. It would not surprise me of it were made into a movie or Netflix series.