Tag Archives: Japan

A Most Unlikely Heroine: ‘The Story of H’ by Marina Perezagua

Marina Perezagua’s masterfully written novel The Story of H (281 pages; Ecco/HarperCollins: translated by Valerie Miles) follows the agonizing lifelong journey of an unlikely heroine, H, an intersex woman mutilated in the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima. The bombing is a paradoxical catalyst in H’s life, giving her the freedom to pursue the surgeries she needs to become anatomically a woman; but with this comes the loss of her family, home, and most important to her identity, her ability to conceive a child. H faces ostracization after the bombing and her transition, and leaves Japan to travel the world in search …Continue reading

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Hidden in Plain Sight: ‘Convenience Store Woman’ by Sayaka Murata

The Japanese word “Irrashaimasse” is an honorific expression used most often as a stock welcome in places of business. The spirit of the word is reflected throughout award-winning author Sayaka Murata’s novel Convenience Store Woman (translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori; 176 pages; Grove Press), which invites readers to re-examine contemporary society’s absurdities through the idiosyncratic worldview of its narrator, 36-year-old Keiko Furukura. Murata perfectly portrays this unconventional woman who has been leading a stagnant life working at the Hiiromachi Station Smile Mart since its opening 18 years ago. In the meantime, her friends are getting married and having children. Furukura …Continue reading

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ZYZZYVA Interview Series: Min Jin Lee

Min Jin Lee is the author of two novels. Her first one, Free Food for Millionaires, was named a “Top Ten Novel of the Year” by The Times of London, NPR’ “Fresh Air,” and USA Today. Her newest novel, Pachinko, is a national bestseller and has been named a New York Times Editor’s Choice, an American Booksellers Association’s Indie Next Great Read, and has received starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, and Library Journal. Earlier this year, she spoke about Pachinko—an epic story of the experience of generations of Koreans and Japanese of Korean heritage living in Japan—with ZYZZYVA Managing Editor …Continue reading

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The Wondrous Re-Imagining of a Japanese Folktale: Patrick Ness’s ‘The Crane Wife’

In the Japanese folktale Tsuru no Ongaeshi, upon which Patrick Ness’s wondrous new novel, The Crane Wife, is loosely based, a young rice farmer rescues a beautiful white crane that has crashed into his rice paddy. The crane’s fall is caused by an arrow still jutting from its wing; the farmer carefully extracts the arrow and bids the crane take care as it flies away. When he returns to his house, the farmer is shocked to find a young woman waiting for him there. She tells him she has come to be his wife and ignores his protestations of poverty. …Continue reading

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A Crystal Retelling of a Dark Origin Myth: Natsuo Kirino’s ‘The Goddess Chronicle’

Japanese crime writer Natsuo Kirino’s latest novel, The Goddess Chronicle (Canongate; 312 pages) translated by Rebecca Copeland, is a revenge-filled rethinking of an ancient Japanese creation myth. As the latest entry in The Canongate Myths series, Kirino’s novel reinterprets aspects of the Kojiki—a collection of myths initially assembled in eighth century Japan—to tell the story of two powerful deities, Izanami and Izanaki, and the beginning of the world. This origin story is not a happy one: the world produced by Izanami and Izanaki is born of conflict, through an infinite cycle of betrayal and payback. For every one thousand people …Continue reading

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Big in Japan: Q&A with Ted Goossen and Motoyuki Shibata of “Monkey Business”

Published annually, the nascent literary journal Monkey Business connects an English-reading public—whose familiarity with modern Japanese literature may be limited to Haruki Murakami, Yukio Mishima, and Keiji Nakazawa—to a wide range of contemporary if not as well known Japanese writers. The journal, supported by the Nippon Foundation and A Public Space, is the international offshoot of the same-name publication started in Tokyo in 2008. The second issue was published earlier this year, and just like the first volume, it is a delight. Translations of major authors and rising talents share space with work from established U.S. writers (Stuart Dybek, Rebecca Brown, …Continue reading

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