‘Taiwan in the eyes of a foreigner’, by Nick Kembel: BOOK REVIEW

‘Taiwan in the eyes of a foreigner’, by Nick Kembel
Buy it on Amazon.com. Published by www.tsais-idea.com.tw

By Trista di Genova, The Wild East

It’s really great to see expat writers on Taiwan come out with work of this calibre. Taiwan from the eyes of a foreigner is a kind and personalized introduction to this island; it’s well-designed, very well-produced, kudos for being bilingual English-Chinese, and the photography is really quite gorgeous (we find out that these photos were lost, then later salvaged thanks to friends’ efforts). Illustrations were often a cool contribution by Kembel’s sister, Leanne, a professional painter.

This book’s now available on Amazon.com. Somehow he managed to have the preface written by New Taipei City’s Director of Economic Development! Well… isn’t that a cunning display of guanxi!

Kembel’s done his homework when he introduces his subjects – Taiwan’s patron goddess Mazu and her annual pilgrimage around Taiwan; Jade Mountain’s heights and role under Japanese rule; mass tourism and history of Sun Moon Lake; and addresses other common interests and experiences of the foreign community here: teaching ‘the little monsters’ which he considers himself lucky to have such an enjoyable job; the amusing Top 15 Superstitions; and life (and love) in Formosa.

Many of these subjects I’ve written features articles on as well, such as Peacefest 2010 and aboriginal history in Taiwan, but Kembel often does add his unique perspective, in particular as a Canadian punker in Taiwan. He wonders why Taiwan, seemingly so free, doesn’t have a punk community? Then he visits veteran punk rocker Rojye in his rock shop in Tainan, discovering that Confucian values of not questioning authority are still infused in the culture – as well as a keen avoidance of dissenting behavior, likely a leftover from the ole Martial Law days. He also defends Taiwan’s ‘Strawberry Generation’ as being just a label put on the youth, and looks into Japanese influences on local culture, such as through Manga comic books and Cosplay community gatherings.

Overall, a very interesting collection of features articles on Taiwan; there’s something in it for everybody. Kembel’s earnest appreciation for the culture is exceptionally evident throughout.

One interesting thing he pointed out was that you can get a divorce at the 7-11 in Taiwan. Will have to check this out for myself!

Read an interview of Nick Kembel on Waakao.com

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