Sunday, July 31, 2011
Publisher Format: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing Paperback, 212 pages
Year of publication: 2011
Subject: American women married to Japanese, living in Japan
Setting: various Japanese town
Genre: short series
Source: e-galley ARC from publisher
This superb collection of short stories is going to be one of my best of the year when it comes time to make up that list in December. Suzanne Kamata has given us a portrait of American women living in foreign countries, marrying foreigners, and often giving up life as they know it to reside in their husband's native country. Most were set in Japan, a setting that resonates with me, since I lived in Japan for a total of five years quite awhile ago.
I especially identified with the American woman in the story "You're so lucky" about a woman who is having a C-section in Japanese hospital--she looks at the clock as they begin to administer the anesthetic. It was shockingly similar to my own experience when my son was born there, although he was born in the American Naval hospital. Of course, she gives birth to twins, and must then begin to deal with physical disabilities that many preemie babies have.
In the next story, "The Naming," we are treated to almost the same event but from the perspective of the Japanese father, who as a baseball coach is struggling with a team that has lost 19 straight games. He is suddenly called away from his team when his wife goes into labor, and hurries to the hospital while his team of underdogs wins without him. His internal struggle with the children's disabilities mirrors his wife's, and it is not until he comes to grips with their ability to survive that he can face naming the children.
Kamata continues with stories of the family dealing with these children. In "Polishing the Halo" the mother is worried that "Not only was Ana a girl in a society that favored boys, not only was she a mixed race child in a country that cherished pure blood, but also she was disabled." As she watches, another mother, herself deaf, signs a halo and says she is an angel, giving Ana's mom hope and a new perspective.
Throughout all the story, Kamata's sympathetic and compelling picture of multi-cultural marriage, of different customs and traditions, and unmet expectations adds to her ability to give us insight into the hearts and minds of these women who have chosen to abandon the familiar in order to remain with the love of their lives.
Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing proves again that small publishers can and do spot the winners. My thanks for the opportunity to review this one.