Connect with us

Thai Life

Phuket Books: The resident fashionista of Guantanamo

Legacy Phuket Gazette



PHUKET: Norman Mailer was never known for his generosity to young writers. The one author he did adopt was the convict Jack Abbott, author of the prison memoir, In the Belly of the Beast. Mailer championed his cause and when Abbott was released from prison, he promptly stabbed a waiter to death.

But Alex Gilvarry has been named a Norman Mailer Fellow. His debut novel is called: From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant (Viking, New York, 2012, 302pp). This tells the improbable tale of Boy Hernandez, a Filipino dress designer and rising star in the New York fashion world, five foot one inch tall, avidly heterosexual and fond of blondes, who is accused of fomenting a terrorist plot and is whacked away in Guantanamo.

It’s there that he writes his book.

You might think that this has all the makings of a farce. The New York fashion scene just begs for satire. But, to his credit and despite the clever laugh lines, Gilvarry is deadly serious. Here are the thoughts of his dress designer hero: “A dress is a performance –its only responsibility is to the moment. It is elegant and ephemeral. It can’t sustain a woman’s body for very long. Women’s changes are far too radical. In couture, some dresses can be worn for only a few hours, max. What’s the saying? Elegance is a dress too dazzling to dare wear it twice.”

How did Alex Gilvarry get started? His first girlfriend in Manila was pawing through a stack of New York fashion magazines and Hernandez was instantly hooked. This moment, “transcended price and brand and the particular waif who wore it. It was between the individual and the clothes. All else meant nothing. This moment of catharsis is what we in the industry refer to as ‘in the zone’. It’s when a designer takes it to the next level to create something fresh and hot and unforgettable.”

New York is the young designer’s dream and in 2002, on his first taxi ride from the airport, he has the driver stop at Battery Park so that he can gaze upon the Statue of
Liberty. He is soon mentored by a former Manila fashion school classmate, Philip Tang. Halfway through the memoir, Tang displays his collection of dresses.

“This new line was much darker than the collections he had done before. It brooded and slouched. It was sorrow and anguish and jealousy and I saw myself. In the greatest art we see ourselves reflected back at us, do we not? Guernica, The Scream.”

For the nuts and bolts of his rise, he depends on Ahmed Qureshi, a Brooklyn neighbor and extravagantly mendacious Pakistani con man. Ahmed fronts the money for his move to fashionable Williamsburg where he sets up his studio at a former toothpick factory overlooking the East River. His girlfriend is Michelle Brewbaker, a drama major at Sarah Lawrence who, after his downfall, will write a short-lived Broadway play about their romance.

Hernandez refers to his downfall as “The Momentous Event”. On the night of May 30, 2006, he was settling into bed and waiting for Michelle to come out of the bathroom when a SWAT team burst into his apartment. He found himself on the floor with a boot to his neck.

Two weeks later in Guantanamo, his FBI interrogator handed him a pen and legal pad and suggested he write his memoirs.

In these pages he neatly captures his guards, his interrogators and fellow prisoners, his martinet of the awful camp commandant.

He has been consigned to a “No Man’s Land” because Ahmed Qureshi had been caught in a FBI sting operation trying to sell explosive ammonium nitrate fertilizer to Somali terrorists. He accuses boy Hernandez of being the mastermind.

Toward the end Hernandez writes: “Because everything I write about is in the past, I don’t see myself as living anymore. This is what happens to you when you are arrested. The present is shifted instantly into the past, and what had once seemed unfathomable – torment, misery, profound suffering – is now actual.”

Will Boy Hernandez ever escape No Man’s Land? He is soon to endure much worse treatment from the another government agency, the CIA.

The book is available as a Kindle edition from or by ordering through all good bookshops in Phuket.

— James Eckardt


Get more from The Thaiger

📱 Download our app on Android or iOS
👋 Have your say on our Thailand forums
🔔 Subscribe to our daily email newsletter
📺 Subscribe / Join YouTube for daily shows
👍 Like/Follow us on Facebook
🐦 FOLLOW us on Twitter
📷 FOLLOW us on Instagram


Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Coronavirus (Covid-19)19 mins ago

Police investigate hackers selling stolen vaccine appointments

Chon Buri3 hours ago

Driver blames GPS for durian truck wedged under overpass

Coronavirus (Covid-19)5 hours ago

Despite low riders, Covid-19 train to continue

Welcome back to Thailand!

Thaiger is getting behind local businesses for the restart of tourism in Thailand - up to 50% discounts across all advertising packages!

Pattaya6 hours ago

Planning for “Pattaya Move On” reopening scheme continues

Best of7 hours ago

Top 5 cookie shops in Bangkok

Drugs7 hours ago

Marine police seize 30 kilograms of methamphetmine from squid fishing boat

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Thailand7 hours ago

Thailand News Today | Bars defy bans, Sandbox ‘still on’, vaccine rush | July 28

Thailand9 hours ago

Thailand to apply for Guinness World Record for longest petrified log

Coronavirus (Covid-19)9 hours ago

Koh Samui bar and club finds 16 Covid-19 infections

Best of11 hours ago

Kanchanaburi’s 5 coolest hotels

Thailand11 hours ago

Thousands of inmates granted royal pardon on HM the King’s birthday

Coronavirus (Covid-19)11 hours ago

Wednesday Covid Update: 16,533 new cases; provincial totals

Best of12 hours ago

5 of the most amazing hotels in Koh Chang

Best of12 hours ago

The best steakhouses in Pattaya serving juicy steak

Coronavirus (Covid-19)14 hours ago

Girls infected with Covid after mother dies at home; public criticises healthcare system

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism5 months ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism5 months ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism5 months ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand6 months ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand6 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand6 months ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand6 months ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Southern floods, Face mask fines, Thai Air Asia woes | January 8