Smashing stereotypical portrayals of East Asian women in books and theatre [video]

Yang-May Ooi, writer/ performer of Bound Feet Blues spoke at the launch of the Anglo Asiatic Arts & Heritage Alliance launch in April about “Tiger Spirit Women” – dynamic, intelligent, independent and fierce East Asian women who are the anti-thesis of the stereotypical portrayal of them in books and theatre in Western culture.

Yang-May says: “My creative work is dedicated to smashing the stereotype of the docile, passive China-doll like East Asian woman who exists solely in the domestic sphere and to portraying us as we really are – active agents taking our place in the world, capable, empowered and forces to be reckoned with.”

In her talk, she discusses her two novels, The Flame Tree and Mindgame, and Bound Feet Blues as well as her new theatre and book project Butterfly in Blue Jeans.

You can watch her whole talk in this video below (approx 8 mins):


You can  BUY BOUND FEET BLUES, THE BOOK – please click on the links below:





How we perform our selves in every day life [Bound Feet Blues, the BOOK]

Bound Feet Blues, the BOOK, explores the theme of performance in theatre and in our every day lives, using the metaphor of bound feet and fashion. Writer/ performer and author of the book, Yang-May Ooi, explains why performance fascinates her.

Yang-May writes:

Bound Feet Blues, my memoir in book form, opens at my first staged performance of the theatre version of the Bound Feet Blues story. The first chapter describes what it felt like for me to step out in front of an audience under the spotlights to perform the story of my family and my own life.

That first performance at Conway Hall described in the book was captured on video – highlights below:

Acting and Authenticity

We sometimes mistake performance or acting as inauthentic. We think that acting means pretending to be someone that we are not. Of course that is factually true when actors play a fictional role or are portraying a real person on film or in a play but even then actors always seek to be real and honest in the emotions that they depict. For me, portraying myself and my family on stage, it was deeply important to be authentic to my own story and also theirs. The emotions and story I portrayed were real and truthful within the frame of the drama.

The experience of that performance made me reflect on the performance of my self over the last few decades.

“Performing” My Life

In the book, Bound Feet Blues, I write about how I “performed” the role of a Bright Young Thing in my student days in Oxford, going to balls and dressing as a beautiful “China Doll”. Later, I “performed” the role of a high-achieving lawyer in London in the yuppy atmosphere of the ’80s. When I came out, I “performed” as a boyish lesbian in baggy chinos and lace ups. It was only after all this experimentation that I finally came to be able to express who I really am – a mix of feminine and masculine, sometimes high powered, sometimes slobby and lazy, sometimes beautifully dressed, sometimes not.

Yang-May Ooi at Pride “performing” the tomboy self. This photo is one of many in her book, Bound Feet Blues

How do you “perform” different aspects of your character?

We all perform who we are to some extent. Think about how you show Continue reading

Doing the Unimaginable – Bound Feet Blues at the Oxford Literary Festival

Writer/ performer Yang-May Ooi will be featured at the Oxford Literary Festival in a solo event as part of the St Hilda’s Writers Day on Saturday 09 April. Yang-May will perform an extract from Bound Feet Blues and talk about Doing the Unimaginable – how and why women in China practiced the brutal process of footbinding on their daughters for a thousand years.

Yang-May writes:

I’m delighted to have been invited back to Oxford by my old college St Hilda’s as part of the Oxford Literary Festival. Bound Feet Blues opens in Oxford as I stroll across Magdalen Bridge from St Hilda’s to a summer ball with a gang of my friends in our ball gowns with our boyfriends in black tie. So it feels just perfect to be heading back to Oxford to talk about my show and the accompanying book of the same name.

Here’s some blurb:

The brutal practice of footbinding is unimaginable to us today but was the norm for women in ancient China. In her one woman show Bound Feet Blues – A Life Told in Shoes, inspired by her great-grandmother who had bound feet, writer/ performer Yang-May Ooi explores what led those women to do the unimaginable in breaking and binding their daughters’ feet for the sake of beauty – and why footbinding is still relevant in modern times. In this talk for St Hilda’s Writers Day, she draws from the themes of love and courage in her theatre piece to discuss what it means to do the unimaginable as mothers, daughters and creative artists today. Yang-May will also be performing a short extract from the show.

There’ll also be the chance to buy a copy of the book – and I’ll of course be around to sign your personal copy.

Bound Feet Blues performance photo: Yang-May uses her hands on stage to demonstrate footbinding

If you’re in the Oxford area on Saturday 09 April, it would be lovely to see you at this one hour event. If you’d like to say hello afterwards, please do drop me a line and I’ll keep an eye out for you – or just come up and say “hi”.

If you know anyone in the Oxford area who might be interested to come along, please do tell them about the event. It would be great to see some warm and friendly faces in the crowd.


Bound Feet Blues: Doing the Unimaginable – Yang-May Ooi

When: Saturday 09 April 2016, 12pm (1 hour)

Where: Jesus College, Oxford – Lecture Theatre

Tickets: £12




If you can’t make it you can still Continue reading


Bound feet and what it means to be a woman – The Women’s Institute, East Dulwich 03 February 2016

Writer/ performer of Bound Feet Blues, Yang-May Ooi, will be speaking about bound feet and what it means to be a woman at the WI (Women’s Institute) East Dulwich SE22 on Wednesday 03 February 2016.


Yang-May writes:

I’m delighted to have been invited to speak at the WI at the Literary Evening with Local Authors. Here’s the line up for the evening;

Lloyd Shepherd is an author of three historical thrillers, The English Monster, The Polished Island and Savage Magic.  He will be speaking to us about his latest book, Savage Magic.

Yang-May Ooi will be presenting on her newest book, Bound Feet Blues which is a story told through the shoes she has worn in her life. Yang-May is also author of the best selling novel, the Flame Tree.

Rebecca Mackenzie will be reading an excerpt from her debut novel, In a Land of Paper Gods.

Harry from Dulwich Books will also be joining us with the above mentioned authors books as well as a selection of their top picks.

I’ll be talking about why bound feet are still relevant to us today as modern women in the West and how feet and shoes can invite us to think about what it means to be a woman.

bound foot in chinese slipper


normal foot in high heels


I’m also looking forward to meeting the WI members and hearing the other authors talk about their books. It’s going to be a fascinating evening.

It’s a private WI event – if you’rea member it would be lovely to see you there. If not, you can enquire Continue reading


50% discount on Bound Feet Blues, the BOOK, for Book Groups

Yang-May’s publisher is offering a 50% discount to book groups who order 5 copies or more of Bound Feet Blues, the book. Find out more below…

Yang-May writes:

I’m thrilled that Matthew Smith of Urbane Publications is offering this hugely generous discount to book groups who want to read Bound Feet Blues. There are so many themes in the book that could offer up juicy discussions – around body image and fashion, family stories, what values and life lessons mothers pass down to daughters as well as footbinding and Chinese history.

To take advantage of the 50% discount, please email Matthew direct via 

The Q&A sessions after the show threw up all kinds of terrific discussions so I love it that we can offer something similar to readers of the book via the Book Group Discussion Pack. You can download it via this link:

And if you would like to arrange a virtual Q&A with me for your book group, we can sort something out via Skype, Facetime or Google Hangouts.  You can contact me direct via the form below:

Bound Feet Blues




How Yang-May Ooi’s great grandmother with bound feet inspired Bound Feet Blues [video]

In the  video below, writer/ performer Yang-May Ooi tells the story of her great-grandmother that inspired her to write Bound Feet Blues.

Yang-May writes:

The show was only one hour long so I made certain artistic choices in portraying my great-grandmother in the theatre performance. Her story is incomplete in the show because I wanted the audience to stay with the moment of transformation rather than seeing how her story ends.

The book of Bound Feet Blues takes great-grandma’s story and extends and deepens it at the more leisurely pace that a long read can offer. So for those of you who Continue reading


28 Days in the Writing, A Lifetime in the Making – Bound Feet Blues, the BOOK [video]

Author Yang-May Ooi talks about how she was able to write the book, Bound Feet Blues – all 420 pages of it! – in 28 days.

This groundbreaking family and personal memoir was a lifetime in the making. The stories span several generations, going back to the young boy who was kidnapped by bandits and the young woman with bound feet who ran away from an unhappy marriage. Yang-May interweaves these ancestral tales with her own personal story as she learns what it takes to become her own woman.

In this video, she gives us a flavour of the book and shares her creative process in bringing these stories to life.

TO BUY THE BOOK, click on the links below:



URBANE PUBLICATIONS – special 25% discount code: shoes


Writer/ performer Yang-May Ooi unboxes Bound Feet Blues, the BOOK [video]

As an author, there’s nothing more exciting than receiving the author’s copies of your book. In this video, writer/ performer Yang-May Ooi unboxes the delivery of 12 author’s copies of Bound Feet Blues, the BOOK.

Yang-May writes:

The books arrived during the last week of rehearsals for the show. I got home late one evening and there the box was. I was exhausted and just wanted to sit down and have something to eat. But seeing that box there perked Continue reading


It’s the last night of Bound Feet Blues – but the stories will live on in the BOOK!

Tonight is the last night of writer/ performer Yang-May Ooi’s solo performance of the stage work Bound Feet Blues! But the story does not end here – the book Bound Feet Blues (now available, published by Urbane Publications) will continue the legacy of this astonishing creative work. The BOOK contains the full script of the show PLUS the stories that Yang-May could not fit in to the hour long show.

** Bound Feet Blues is on at the Tristan Bates Theatre for one more show only – tonight Sat 12 December 2015. Don’t miss this “mesmerising” and “powerful” show – there may be some tickets left or as returns so you can  buy tickets below or via **

Rehearsal – Aunty Diana’s tells her story

To conclude our daily blog on the show, here are some highlights from reviews and audience feedback:

“Bound Feet Blues is a warm, funny and groundbreaking exploration of women’s expectations, concerns and desires. With deft strokes, renowned storyteller Yang-May paints a nuanced picture of her coming-out (too-new hiking boots), explores Chinese-Malaysian culture (bare feet, bound feet) and considers the span of generations and mother-daughter-relationships. Her voice is a honed musical instrument, and her performance – a blend of voice and movement – feels like a generous gift.” – Mooky Chick

Performance – “.. I step off into air”

“It was genuinely one of the most moving, engaging and intimate shows I’ve ever seen in a theatre. By coincidence, the previous evening, my wife and I went to see The Winter’s Tale, with Kenneth Branagh and Judi Dench; but of the two, Bound Feet Blues was by far the more rewarding and memorable experience!”

“I loved your physicality and performance. The piece was beautifully written – complex, moving, so many layers.”


BUY THE BOOK from Urbane Publications’ website and use the discount code ‘shoes‘ for 25% off the RRP


For National Coming Out Day, read a FREE extract from Yang-May Ooi’s coming out story as told in her memoir Bound Feet Blues, the book

To celebrate National Coming Out Day tomorrow, Sunday 11 Oct, writer/ performer Yang-May Ooi shares an extract from her memoir Bound Feet Blues – A Life Told in Shoes, the book that is inspired by her solo theatre piece of the same name. Bound Feet Blues is as much about Yang-May’s journey to discovering her sexual identity as it is the story of the women in her family. 

Here is the extract from the chapter entitled “Biker Boots” from the book, Bound Feet Blues:

Coming out is a rite of passage.

In the world of debutantes and high society, it is an ancient tradition going back generations. When a young woman comes of age, she is invited to a coming out ball to introduce her to society – and  in the aristocratic classes in Britain, to present her to the monarch. It is her “debut” into the world as an adult – or, rather, as a fertile virgin of a marriagable age. This custom continues to this day among the elite not just in Britain but also, surprisingly, in the ideally classless societies of Australia and the United States.

The coming out ball is the moment when high society gathers to view the future of their dynasties. Debutantes customarily wear white ball gowns, sometimes with long white Cinderella gloves and sometimes with tiaras or both.  If you Google images of  “debutante ball coming out”, you will see that the styles of the ball dresses have changed little since Victorian times and often the young women are indistinguishable from each other in their demure, beautiful uniforms. The eligible young bachelors gather round them in white tie and tails and suddenly, we are back in the world of Jane Austen and Downton Abbey and fairy tale princesses.

For a young woman in that society, to come out is to emerge from Continue reading