Read this with furikake popcorn

Sansei and Sensibility By Karen Tei Yamashita (Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 2020, 232 pp., $16.95, paperback) During the pandemic, I’ve been listening to readings of various Jane Austen novels on Spotify. They are familiar and comforting, there’s no earth-shattering action, merely the twists and turns of domestic life, the relationship within families and romantic courtship. […]

Karen Tei Yamashita’s invisible planet

Karen Tei Yamashita: Fictions of Magic and Memory Edited By A. Robert Lee (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2018, 216 pp., $72, hard cover) On the multi-tiered bookshelf that my father made for me decades ago, I have a weathered plain green advanced reading copy of Karen Tei Yamashita’s “Through the Arc of the Rain […]

Historian connects the links

Ghosts of Gold Mountain: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad By Gordon H. Chang (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020, 320 pp., $16.99, paperback) One great treat amid the latest crop of historical books on Asian Americans is Gordon H. Chang’s “Ghosts of Gold Mountain: The Epic Story of the Chinese […]

Before camp

A SCARF FOR KEIKO By Ann Malaspina; illustrated by Merrilee Liddiard (Kar-Ben Publishing, 2019, 32 pp., $7.99, paperback) In this story, a young Jewish boy, Sam, fights conflicting feelings about his Japanese American classmate, Keiko, because of the raging war and the anti-Japanese sentiment pervasive in the community. He ignores Keiko because of another classmate […]

Yes, I can

Sumo Joe By Mia Wenjen, illustrated by Nat Iwata (New York: Lee & Low Books, 2019, 40 pp., $18.95, hard cover) This is a quick, fun look at a young girl, Aikido Jo, who wants to join the “boy only place” where her brother Sumo Joe and his friends are wrestling. She challenges her brother […]

Getting to know Japan’s weird side

Tokyo Geek’s Guide: Manga, Anime, Gaming, Cosplay, Toys, Idols & More By Gianni Simone (North Clarendon, Vt.: Tuttle Publishing, 2017, 144 pp., $16.95, paperback) In the past two decades Japanese anime, manga, and gaming has gained worldwide popularity. This otaku culture has seeped into the mainstream and can be glimpsed all around Japan. “Tokyo Geek’s […]

A seminal and mesmerizing collection

The Swamp By Yoshiharu Tsuge (Montreal: Drawn and Quarterly, 2020, 256 pp., $24.95, hard cover) I first got an inkling that Montreal, Quebec publisher Drawn and Quarterly was releasing exciting new work by Asian Americans with the 2018 release of Rina Ayuyang’s “Blame This on the Boogie,” building on a list that included English translations/reprints […]

Learning life lessons with Grandma

BA-CHAN THE NINJA GRANDMA: AN ADVENTURE WITH LITTLE KUNOICHI THE NINJA GIRL Authored and illustrated by Sanae Ishida (Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 2018, 32 pp., $16.99, hardcover) Here’s a ninja tale starring the adventures of little Kunoichi, released in 2018. This one pairs up “Ba-chan,” the “Ninja Grandma,” and her granddaughter. This is the third book […]

Counteracting ‘invisibility’ within the JA community

TRANS-PACIFIC JAPANESE AMERICAN STUDIES: CONVERSATIONS ON RACE AND RACIALIZATIONS Edited by Yasuko Takezawa and Gary Y. Okihiro (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2016, 448 pp., $35, hardcover) This substantial volume is co-edited by two distinguished Nikkei practitioners of Japanese American studies, one a Japan-based anthropologist, Yasuko Takezawa of Kyoto University, and the other a U.S.-situated […]

How a teacher’s letters helped JA inmates

Write to Me: Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian They Left Behind By Cynthia Grady, illustrated by Amiko Hirao. (Watertown, Mass.: Charlesbridge, 2018, 32 pp., $16.99, hardcover) This tenderly illustrated book is a thoroughly researched account of the correspondence via postcards between Clara Breed, a children’s librarian in San Diego, and her enthusiastic […]

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