by Malcolm Scott
No doubt the pun is intended when Malcolm Scott calls himself a "full-blown Bali expat" because much of Bali Raw revolves around vice on the holiday isle. An Australian who moved there to work in a development company, he has mostly bad things to say about his new home, which will make you wonder why he chooses to remain there. Few will be surprised by his revelations of prostitution, rip-offs, brawls and drugs, but most visitors will not be aware of the turf wars that contribute to Bali being "as dangerous a place as you will ever encounter": animosity among different villagers, among Indonesian ethnic groups, and between Indonesians and Westerners. He also explains that most security jobs are filled by Balinese, while most prostitutes are Javanese. They, like other non-Balinese workers, must carry identification cards, which are deposited at guard posts when the women visit clients; to get them back they have to relinquish part of their earnings. Scott may paint an ugly picture of Bali, but in doing so he tars himself with the same brush.
by Shelby Smoak
Michigan State University Press
Shelby Smoak was infected with HIV while at school but it was a secret his parents kept from him until he was 18. For him, like for many other haemophiliacs in the 1980s, tainted blood had been the cause. Bleeder, his memoir, takes readers from 1990, when he is informed of the diagnosis, to 1998, when he is forced to return home for parental care after new medication causes kidney stones and he starts urinating blood. Smoak's various physical ailments, including arthritis, are recounted matter of factly, as are his romances with remarkable women who supported and loved him. Smoak writes about having to hide his HIV-positive status from college friends, "muling" drugs from pharmacies to his dormitory room, and suffering "knee bleeds" - jargon for the accumulation of blood in the joints. Damage to other parts of his body, including his ankles and hips, led to the recommendation that he use a cane to help him walk. This book, written with the assistance of Pen America, is neither a plea for help nor a self-help book. It simply tells it like it is, in a way that hits home.