19 November 2012

Book Review: Queer Japan

Barbara Summerhawk is a Japanese Professor of English and American Literature at Daiko Bunka University. This is one of several anthologies of the stories of Japanese lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. It was originally published in 1998 and was considered the first in-depth view of LGBT life in modern Japan.

I was most affected by two stories. The first was the "lesbian grandma" interview with Nakamura Yu. Born in 1922 out of wedlock, Nakamura was a geisha in her teens during war period in Japan. She was kept as a mistress and ended up in a 38 year plus relationship with one woman. There was something in her frankness and "big view" of her life in the context of the times that I found refreshing.

The other story that affected me was from Kazuo. His narration of how he found his life partner at the end of his high school time and the positive, transformative effect his life partner had on him especially with the non-issue of his deafness was really just lovely. There is also an element of tragedy in this narrative to which I'll let you discover. I hope one day his story is turned into a movie.

There were a lot of good stories throughout. I found the confessionals from Japanese about the problem of shame and community "harmony" enlightening about some of the inner workings of the Japanese individuals that I have been friends with in my life.

The version I read was a 216 paperback published by New Victoria Publishers (June 1, 1998) ISBN: 978-1892281005. The book is written in English. The lowest available priced book is used at amazon.com.

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