Here’s a list of queer representation in Myanmar Literature in Myanmar. Rather than a queer lit recommendation, this is what I managed to compile as a tribute to #pridemonth. Please let me know if you have other books that represents queers in Myanmar Literature.
In the photo are five books and one literary journal that I have. There are a few other books, novellas and short stories with queer characters which I added in the following slide. I believe there are more books, short stories, and poems that embrace queerness in Myanmar literature and my apologies for not being able to make a better list. These stories tell a diverse range of stories in LGBTQIA+ community although not a full spectrum, I suppose.
In past, queer characters were poorly represented in both literature and films for many years. Most of the queer personalities have been presented very stereotypically or badly portrayed. As the country is conservative and oppressed in many aspects, queer presence with a positive note in media has been mainly to teach a religious or cultural lesson.
Besides, there was Press Scrutiny Board in past and the writers had to submit their story to the board prior to publication. Under the watchful eyes of that censorship board, only very few authors have written stories of queer characters or vague portrayal of queer love. In 2012, the requirement for print media organisations to submit materials to the government before publication was lifted.
I recently found out that a well known Burmese author, Moe Thet Han has translated Beijing Comrades by Bei Tong as ရဲဘော်ရဲဘက် and to be published from NDSP. Unfortunately, majority of Burmese novels are not (yet) translated to English except Smile As They Bow [ပြုံး၍လည်း ကန်တော့ခံမူပါ၊ ရယ်၍လည်း ကန်တော့ခံမူပါ – နုနုရည် (အင်းဝ)]. It was translated by Alfred Birnbaum and Thi Thi Aye. For this book, Nu Nu Yi (Inwa) was nominated for the 2007 Man Asian Literary Prize. (I’m currently reading the translated book and will come up with a review later.)
A Woman Invaded Maung Maung’s Body by Yay Aye [မောင်မောင့်ခန္ဓာကိုယ်ထဲမှာ မိန်းမတစ်ယောက် ကျူးကျော်နေထိုင် – ရေအေး] is also an intriguing novella about a young doctor who struggles with his sexuality with a dash of mystical past and present day’s psychoanalysis. Being a psychiatrist himself, Yay Aye explored multi-layer of human’s mind through his character and presented beautifully on one’s own battle with self acceptance towards his sexual orientation.
The 2019 November issue of Hninnsiphyu Literary Journal (နှင်းဆီဖြူ စာပေဂျာနယ်) was vibrant with poems, short stories, essays, translations, etc that represent queerness. I hope there are more journal or magazine issues like this as well as other novels. Look forward to have more diverse representations of queers in Myanmar literature in future.
Following are names of some books or stories that represent queer character(s) and/or community. I received the information of these via friends and followers from my instagram.
- အမြ – လူထုဦးလှ (Short Story)
- ပွင့်တူရွက်တူ – မြနှောင်းညို (Short Story)
- အချစ်မှာ အကြောင်းပြချက်လိုအပ်တယ် – ပြည့် (Short Story)
- ရှင်နဲ့ကျွန်မ – မယ်ရွေး၊ ချိုပိန်းနောင် (Poetry Book)
- သဏ္ဌာန်မဲ့ ကြယ်ကလေး – ဒေးဗစ်မောင်မောင် (Short Stories Collection)