BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Parade: A Folktale by Hiromi Kawakami, translated by Allison Markin Powell [in Booklist]

The presentation is exquisite: slightly smaller than a single hand, Hiromi Kawakami’s spare text is interrupted by Takako Yoshitomi’s delightful two-color illustrations of mostly geometric shapes with anthropomorphized additions. Subtitled “A Folktale,” these less-than-100 pages easily stand alone as a parable about memory, mythic characters, and confessional regrets, but for a lingering, sigh-inducing experience, read this only after finishing its companion, the internationally bestselling, Man Asian Literary Prize finalist, Strange Weather in Tokyo (previously published as The Briefcase, 2012).

Kawakami begins, “‘Tell me a story from long ago,” reintroducing Tokyo’s unlikely couple – a septuagenarian-ish retired high-school teacher and his former student Tsukiko, who is some three decades younger. While sharing a leisurely summer afternoon cooking and eating somen (thin wheat noodles), Tsukiko reveals “a story from when [she] was little,” involving the appearance of two tengu (supernatural winged creatures) companions, elementary school bullying, the saving grace of forgiveness, and the magic engendered by kindness.

Kawakami’s enduring afterword follows – and haunts – as she ponders what happens to “stories that have ended,” of “echoes that [she] hear[s], far off in the distance,” how “[t]he world that exists behind a story is never fully known, not even to the author.” The result – Anglophoned once again by Allison Markin Powell, Kawakami’s translator of choice – is an ethereal, resonating literary gift.

Review: “Fiction,” Booklist, October 1, 2019

Readers: Adult

Published: 2019 (United States)


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