The Opium Queen: The Untold Story of the Rebel Who Ruled the Golden Triangle

Rowman & Littlefield. Apr. 2023. 192p. ISBN 9781538131978. $26.96. HIST
When investigative journalist Paluch worked as a reporter for a government-censored newspaper in Myanmar (formerly Burma), she learned of Jin Xiu “Olive” Yang, a near-mythical opium warlord. Many viewed Yang as a greedy, ruthless Golden Triangle gangster, whereas others were convinced she was a CIA conspirator who ran an anti-communist rebel army. The author spent years chasing Yang’s true story, conducting interviews with some of Yang’s relatives, business associates, (alleged) former lovers, a man who wrote a mostly fictional book about her, and with Yang herself, albeit briefly. The author uncovers many details: Yang used she/her pronouns but male honorifics, such as Uncle Olive; her family forced her to marry her cousin and bear a child; she left her husband and had women lovers; she used her influence as the member of a noble family to make her opium-trade fortune; and she helped negotiate a handshake-ceasefire in Kokang. Written in a somewhat disjointed style and perhaps not the easiest introduction for those with little knowledge of the region, this book will still likely appeal to biography fans.
VERDICT This well-written, well-researched book portrays a central figure who never quite emerges from her shroud of legend.
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