Welcome Me to the Kingdom
by Mai Nardone ’13
Published by Penguin Random House (2023)
In 1980, young lovers Pea and Nam arrive in Bangkok in search of a life, and a world, beyond Thailand’s rural outskirts. Thirty days, they promise each other. Thirty days for Pea to find work, for him to put aside his violent and unstable past and take root in this strange new land. But Bangkok does not want for male laborers, especially teenage boys with thick provincial accents, and when time finally runs out on their promise, it’s Nam who ultimately adapts to the capital’s ruthless logic and survives.
Spanning decades and perspectives, seamlessly shifting between the absurd and the tenderhearted, the interwoven stories of Welcome Me to the Kingdomintroduce three families—Nam, her American husband, Rick, and their daughter, Lara; Vitat, a Thai Elvis impersonator, and his only daughter, Pinky; and Tintin and Benz, orphans who have adopted each other as brothers—who employ various schemes to lie, betray, and seduce their way to the “good life.”
These disparate citizens of Bangkok orbit each other over the next three decades—sometimes violently, passionately colliding. Through skin-whitening routines, cult conversion, gambling, and sex work, the collection’s characters look for reinvention in a city buckling under the weight of its own modernity.
Wildly imaginative and ambitious, Mai Nardone’s stories reveal the growing discrepancy between Bangkok’s smiling self-image and its ugly underbelly, and, in the process, offer a striking portrait of a city unmade by the whims of global capitalism, in a kingdom caught between this world and the next.