In OPIUM QUEEN, Gabrielle Paluch shines a well-deserved light on the previously untold personal history of a woman who was thoroughly ahead of her time, and who was at the center of global events that altered the course of history..
The Untold Story of the Woman Warlord Who Ruled the Golden Triangle
by Gabrielle Paluch
Rowman & Littlefield, April 2022
A fearless Burmese warlord, Olive Yang dressed, smoked, fought, and loved like one of the boys, rebelling against the confines of her gender from a very young age and later carrying on eyebrow-raising love affairs with a movie starlet, a General’s wife, and her own prison warden, amongst others. Beloved and revered by her soldiers, this trailblazing woman reigned over a powerful army that controlled the Golden Triangle from the end of World War II to the early 1960s, and infamously assisted the CIA in their plan to arm militias against Communist Chinese troops. Perhaps most fascinatingly of all, this female firebrand has largely been forgotten, relegated solely to the footnotes of history books. Until a few years ago, no one even seemed to know whether Olive was alive or dead. Determined to right this wrong, Gabrielle Paluch set out on a once-in-a-lifetime journey to find Olive Yang. What she found is, as they say, stranger than fiction.
Intertwining Olive’s story with her own quest to uncover it, Gabrielle Paluch raises difficult questions about the US’s covert intervention in Burma, which is largely to thank for the birth of the modern opium trade, delves deeply into questions of gender and sexuality, and takes a look at the complicated history of the nation now known as Myanmar, which remains in turmoil to this day.
Gabrielle Paluch spent six years living in Myanmar and Thailand, reporting on both countries for Voice of America, the LA Times and other publications. In 2016, she earned an MA from Columbia University’s Graduate School in Journalism and was an Overseas Press Club Scholar, awarded the H.L. Stevenson Fellowship for her groundbreaking reporting on female genital mutilation in Thailand. As an investigative reporter, Gabrielle has been a regular contributor to The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Associated Press, Times of London, Newsweek, CNN, Al Jazeera, and many others. She was the last journalist to meet with Olive Yang before she died. In 2017, her obituary of Olive Yang ran in the New York Times Saturday Profile; it was selected by the Times as one of the 11 best profiles of a woman that year and was nominated for a Southeast-Asian Overseas Press Award in Feature Writing.