By Rashaad Jorden (Yamagata-ken, 2008-10) for JQ magazine. A former head of the JETAA Philadelphia Sub-Chapter, Rashaad currently studies responsible tourism management at Leeds Metropolitan University. For more on his life in the UK and enthusiasm for taiko drumming, visit his blog at www.gettingpounded.wordpress.com.
As mysterious as Japan seems to be, there are numerous occurrences in the country that leave you amazed.
Enter Kelly Luce (Kawasaki/Tokushima-ken, 2002-04). The JET Program alum’s first published collection of fiction, Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail (which is also the title of one of Luce’s stories) often utilizes magic realism to tell stories that take place in Nippon.
Three Scenarios contains ten stories and the first one, titled “Ms. Yamada’s Toaster” (which previously appeared in the anthology Tomo), tells the tale of a toaster that can predict one’s death (the toaster even predicted the death of Ms. Yamada’s husband by popping out a piece of bread three days before he suffered a heart attack). In other stories in Three Scenarios, a teenage girl disappears during karaoke and a stone is haunted by a demon.
While there may be times in Luce’s stories that Japan may seem inconsequential, the “it could only happen in Japan” moments make her stories came alive. For example, in “The Blue Demon of Ikumi,” a foreigner woman who was considered a demon because a child died under her care is set to be executed (she eventually escapes). In “Wisher,” people make seasonal wishes at a fountain’s stone steps, such as students and parents praying before entrance exams in autumn and during summer for travel. And in the above-mentioned “Ms. Yamada’s Toaster,” some villagers wish to make the toaster a deity.
In general, it seemed like the stories would abruptly end, leaving you to wonder what would happen or did I just miss something. Luce definitely does a good job of including cultural references in her stories. All of them contain some sort of cultural observation, making it obvious that she lived in Japan. But there were times it was difficult figuring out what happened in the stories.
However, it’s nice to read about Japan with a touch of magic in it, and the author will be launching a two-month U.S. book tour beginning Oct. 9, giving readings in various cities in Texas, California and Illinois. For more information, visit www.kellyluce.com.
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