An Upside Down Sky
When Lidia, a blocked Latinx artist in her sixties, goes on a group tour of Namyan, a fictional Southeast Asian country reopened to the world after a long dictatorship, she gets much more than the vacation she thinks she’s signed on for. Against a backdrop of pagodas and enigmatic customs, she and the disparate crew of eighteen Americans on the tour encounter one adventure after another—experiences that challenge their assumptions about their host country’s placid surface of beautiful pagodas and wandering Buddhist monks. Along the way, Lidia finds companionship and sexual pleasure with Haynes, a Black man seeking adventure—even danger—in Namyan. On a nighttime excursion among mysterious ancient buildings, they watch the nighttime sky. Lidia remarks that the stars look upside down – a metaphor for Namyan as a foreign place and for her. She enjoys being with Haynes but is conflicted. The final chapter reveals a secret, the source of her conflict, and her steps towards a new freedom.An Upside-Down Sky’s cast of characters, including their Namyanese guide, mirrors America: straight, gay, gender-fluid, black, brown, white, progressive, conservative, artistic, repressed, old, young. Some of them accept Nanyam’s charming façade at face value, while others seek to understand the country’s brutal repression by the military and ongoing ethnic conflicts. And most, resistant as they might be to change, are transformed by their time there.