Daily Archives: April 19, 2012

10 Somewhat Short Reviews of Not Quite Japanese Fiction

Unlike the books I listed in 28 Super Short Reviews of Japanese Fiction, these ten books are not written by Japanese authors, though they are connected to Japan in some way. Enjoy!

 Adamson, Isaac – Tokyo Suckerpunch – First in a series of black-humored detective-thriller-noir-parody books featuring Cleveland’s own “Youth in Asia” (yes, really) magazine reporter Billy Chaka. He’s a hard drinkin’ man who’s got mad martial arts moves, wears the same outfit every day, and always takes the stairs – more than enough quirks for a detective series.

Avery, Ellis – The Teahouse Fire – The story of an American semi-orphan who is constantly mistaken for a really ugly Japanese girl, packed with crazy 19th century historic details and more than you ever wanted to know about tea ceremonies. It also has two fires, in case you’re counting. (Bonus: book on CD!)

Brown, Alan – Audrey Hepburn’s Neck – A young Japanese man raised in a remote northern village moves to Tokyo to pursue both his career and his interest in American ladies, with complicated and sometimes hilarious results. It’s not all fun and games though, because along the way he learns the disturbing truth behind his parents’ estrangement and his mother’s wartime past.


Gibson, William – Idoru – A clever, determined teenage fangirl travels to Japan to stop her musical idol from marrying a virtual idol – though of course, there’s way more to it than that. If the technology seems a little wack to you, remember that it was written in 1996. I didn’t even have a cell phone in 1996.

Golden, Arthur – Memoirs of a Geisha – Do I really need to describe this one for you? Okay, how about this: poor girl has an unhealthy obsession with the guy who once bought her an ice cream cone. It’s partially based on the life of Mineko Iwasaki, who went on to write her own book (Geisha: a Life) because she was pissed at Golden. Like, lawsuit pissed. (Bonus: movie and ebook and book on CD!)

Hayder, Mo – The Devil of Nanking – An English girl who’s done a very bad thing scours Tokyo looking for an elderly gangster who’s also done a very bad thing. Also features nightclubs, professors, mysterious film footage, messy apartments, English teachers, and creepy old men. (Bonus: book on CD!)

Kramer, Gavin – Shopping – A tall goofy-looking English lawyer falls hard for a sixteen year-old Japanese girl who is far more interested in his paychecks than his personality. He also finds the absolutely worst possible way to introduce himself to her parents. I’m not kidding.


Massey, Sujata – The Salaryman’s Wife – The first in a series about spunky half-American half-Japanese antiques-dealer/detective/nosy girl Rei Shimura and her assortment of boyfriends and ex-boyfriends. Not classic literature or anything, but still good readin’ for long flights or rainy days.

Talarigo, Jeff – The Pearl Diver – A nineteen year-old pearl diver contracts leprosy, is forced to sacrifice her name and family, and is transported to a leper colony where she becomes a caretaker for the more severely afflicted. Not a cheerful book, but darn interesting.

Yu, Miri – Gold Rush – A fourteen year-old boy with some unsavory hobbies kills his father and tries to take over his gambling empire, with predictable results. (Note: this one was written in Japanese, but the author is Korean – so she didn’t make it onto the Japanese fiction list.)

– Amy

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