BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

My Name is Sei Shonagon by Jan Blensdorf [in AsianWeek]

My Name Is Sei ShonagonWhat’s wrong with this picture? An Australian journalist spends two years living in Tokyo and writes her first novel, which the PR materials refer to as “an intoxicating addition to the literature of Japan.” It’s not even written in Japanese and the un-Japanese author presumably doesn’t know the historical difference between the two alphabet systems, katakana and hiragana, not to mention the editors that don’t catch her mistake. As it is, Name is about a hapa Japanese American girl who goes to Japan with her widowed mother, to a very restrictive (and abusive) existence in the home of her maternal uncle. As a young woman, she inherits an incense factory, becomes a confessor of sorts to lonely men behind a screen, refuses to give her name and uses the Sei Shonagon moniker instead. She has a bad marriage along the way, from which she escapes. And it’s all told through the unnecessary framing device of her being in a hospital bed and recalling her life in silence. Go figure.

Review: “New and Notable Books,” AsianWeek, February 6, 2004

Readers: Adult

Published: 2003

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