Memoirs of a Sansei
by David Mura
I picked up Turning Japanese at The Book Thing just because the title and cover looked interesting. It's written by a poet (one I never heard of or read before), a third-generation Japanese-American who recounts a year he spent in Japan with his wife. It sounded interesting at first, because the author professed to have grown up entirely American, and was curious to find his roots in Japan. Some parts that taught me bits of the foreign culture were interesting, others got too introspective for me. The author was constantly feeling smug about how for the first time in his life he could blend in just because of his looks, and how some things came naturally to him but not his wife (who was white) but then at other times he felt superior because of his American attitude. It was kind of confusing. And not much was very descriptive. I felt like I waded through pages of words without getting a real sense of what the Tokyo was like; there would be a little bit giving me a sense of the seasons, the crowds, the small spaces. But most of it seemed an endless recounting of parties where the conversations didn't make sense (to the author either it seemed) or his two-hour commute to classes with a master teacher- the dance parts were confusing too; I didn't understand the style of Butoh. I'm sure I'm just not the right reader to appreciate this book; it was really starting to bore me; I made it through just over a hundred pages before finding it tedious. Someone else may well like it better.
I'm a bit curious what Mura's poetry is like, but not enough to go search it out. (It seems strange to me that while he felt distanced from his cultural roots, the poems he mentioned in the book were about things stemming from Japan; like the experiences his grandparents had in camps).
Abandoned........ 373 pages, 1991
Anyone else read it? I'd like to link to another opinion here, but can't find any.