The Asian Mystique: Dragon Ladies, Geisha Girls, & Our Fantasies of the Exotic Orient

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PublicAffairs, 2006 - History - 437 pages
2 Reviews
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 toreally 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.

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The Asian mystique: dragon ladies, geisha girls, & our fantasies of the exotic Orient

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Prasso, a prize-winning journalist and member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, here addresses a non-Asian audience. She asserts that "we" view ... Read full review

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It's interesting that I came across this book right after getting my own e-book, Secrets of Asian Women, published at
This book is a Western woman's analysis of the Asian female stereotype commonly perceived by Westerners while my book is an Asian American woman's take on it. She is probably more objective, but I understand how real Asian women are even more deeply for being one myself ethnically and culturally.
I admire the Sheridan Prasso's in-depth knowledge of Asian history and her extensive research on contemporary Asian societies. I agree with a lot of what she says, including her observation that some Asian women can seem timid in the beginning of a relationship but turn out to be bossy later (I'm definitely NOT one of them, but I've certainly met some of them). Prasso does know her subject matter. That's why I'm giving the book 4 stars. I have to admit that my book is less academic, but it may be more practical or useful to the reader because it shares Asian women's diet tips, beauty secrets,financial saving techniques, and effective communication skills (misunderstood as being submissive) that can apply universally.
I haven't seen other books on the Asian female stereotype, so I would be intrigued to see how someone who has read both would compare them and comment.

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About the author (2006)

Sheridan Prasso has been writing about Asia for more than fifteen years, most recently as Asia Editor and a Senior News Editor for BusinessWeek. Her articles have appeared in Time, The New Yorker, The New Republic, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times,and other publications. An advisor to the Asia Society's Social Issues Programs and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, Prasso currently lives in New York City.

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