My Brother’s Husband Vol 2 by Gengoroh Tagame

This is volume two of this two-part series so if you haven’t read it yet, please understand that there may be spoilers!

So go go go! Go read the first part!

Ok!

So since you’re still reading, I’m guessing you know that this is a continuation of the stories of Mike, Yaichi and Kana. Mike is still staying with Yaichi and Kana.

Yaichi continues to understand more about his feelings towards Mike’s relationship with his brother. He’s starting to realize that they make a family too, even though they may not look like your typical Japanese family.

The three of them, as well as Kana’s mother, take a trip to an onsen and you’re going to want to start booking a trip to Japan because oh, I definitely did after reading those pages!

But wanderlust aside, I loved how Yaichi continues to grow in this volume. His talk with Kana’s teacher is a lesson in calm and sensibility. His realization about his treatment of his brother is devastating and yet also redeeming.

And I shed many a tear as the book drew to an end.

What an absolute pleasure this series was to read.

(I just found out that there is a TV series based on the book – three episodes were aired in Japan in 2018 – hopefully it’ll be something that will be available in the US??)

 

 

I read this for Asian Lit Bingo – Graphic novel with Asian MC.

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Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow

Kiffe Kiffe what?

Well, the title is a play on words.¬†Kif-kif is Arabic slang that means ‚Äúsame old, same old” and kiffer¬†(used mainly by young teens in France) kind of means ‘to be crazy for’.

“…it’s just kif-kif tomorrow. Same shit, different day.”

 

This book is a different look at life in France, one from the perspective of a teenager of Moroccan descent. Her father has returned to Morocco to start a different family there Рi.e. one with a son. And so  her mother has to work desperately hard at a housekeeping job in a crappy motel.

“Everyone calls her ‘Fatma’ at the Formula 1. They shout at her all the time, and keep a close watch on her to make sure she doesn’t steal anything from the rooms.

Of course Mom’s name isn’t Fatma, it’s Yasmina. It must really give Monsieur Winner a charge to call all the Arabs ‘Fatma’, all the blacks ‘Mamadou’, and all the Chinese ‘Ping-Pong’. Pretty freaking lame.”

Doria is 15 so you can expect all the usual teenager problems and angst. And being abandoned by her father, she feels lost.

“What a shitty destiny. Fate is all trial and misery and you can’t do anything about it. Basically no matter what you do you’ll always get screwed over.”

But it’s an especially interesting one as she is a young Muslim girl in France. For instance, she has to get her mother to write her note explaining that she won’t be eating in the school cafeteria because it’s Ramadan, and the principal thinks she forged it because her mother’s signature is a poor one.

Her family is poor and they survive on help from their neighbours, the grocer letting them rack up a bill, and this¬†being France, help from the government – social workers come by and Doria even gets access to a psychologist. But it’s not an easy life for Doria, who doesn’t do well in school, doesn’t seem to have many friends, and has to wear horrible hand-me-down clothes. TV is her main escape.

It is perhaps the ordinariness of her life that appeals to me. That she is just a regular teenager¬†living in France, her life isn’t terribly full of drama in the YA sense – some stuff happens to people in the neighbourhood but you wouldn’t find it hard to believe that this happens out there in the world today.

“Once, he told my mom that in ten years on this job, this was the first time he’d seen ‘people like you with only one child.’ He was thinking ‘Arabs,’ but he didn’t say so.”

I don’t read much translated French literature. And I find it difficult to name any contemporary French writers.¬†Muriel Barbery is the only contemporary¬†translated French author whose work I have recently read. (Please enlighten me!).

And perhaps because of this, I felt that it was rather refreshing reading this authentic teenager’s voice by French-Algerian writer¬†Fa√Įza Gu√®ne. This first book of hers was published in 2004 when she was just 19 years old. It’s been¬†translated into 22¬†different languages. Kiffe kiffe demain was translated into English in 2006 ¬†under the title¬†Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow.

She’s had another of her books translated into English, it’s called Men Don’t Cry.

The Sing-song Girls of Shanghai: Four Girls and a Compact

singsonggirls

The Sing-Song Girls of Shanghai deserves a better reader than me. It required three renewals – easy enough as it was an ebook and no one else was interested in it. There was quite a bit of glancing through of¬†passages. And I really got confused by the very many characters in this book. The lack of a true story arc didn’t really help matters.¬†In fact, it seems that few Chinese have read this tome – The New Yorker said that it may be¬†“China’s ‘Ulysses'”!

But while it is lengthy and not the easiest of reads, it is a fascinating look into a time that is hardly written about. Brothels in 19th century Shanghai, specifically, in the foreign settlements outside the city.

It begins with a young man arriving in Shanghai, fresh from the country, and falls for a courtesan who¬†turns out not to be a virgin despite his having forked out plenty to ‘deflower’ her. It is a cutthroat business after all! The story is more episodic than most, so we catch glimpses of this young fellow throughout the book. The focus here is on the (many) girls instead.

Here’s what I did gleam from the book:

– there are different classes of prostitutes.¬†There are girls and there are “maestros” who sing and don’t play finger games. The ones called ‘prostitutes’¬†are something else altogether. More like streetwalkers. Likewise, there are different ‘classes’¬†of sing-song houses, and within those houses, the girls were ranked.¬†Although all of these girls really do provide more than entertainment, it is only hinted at in the book. Nothing hot and heavy here!

– there is a ‘humble’ side to a divan

– opium opium opium. All the time!

РBesides opium, plenty of drinking  and finger games. Having watched my share of Chinese movies, I can guess at what the finger games are like but I wish there was more description.

– To “call” a girl, you send a servant out with a ticket
– They did eat “western” meals and drink coffee, probably because they were in the foreign districts. I wish the western-style meals were described though. There were also ‘foreign’ policemen.
– Girls are bought at ages 7 or 8. And they can “do business” at age 16.
– The Shanghainese thought the Cantonese uncouth. Cantonese prostitutes are described as having “terrifying” physical strength.
– bound feet can make a “rickety noise”. Yikes!
– Although most of the girls, especially those who have been in the trade since young, are skilled in music and singing and charm, they were almost always illiterate
– Courtesans were not supposed to go anywhere on foot. They were usually transported from party to party by sedan or rickshaw, or even carried by manservants

– Plus, it was first translated by Eileen Chang, of Love in a Fallen City fame. The translation was discovered among her papers after her death.

Here’s the New York Times’ review¬†for a more complete picture.

Also some background to how prostitution transformed Shanghai’s Old City in this article from CNN Traveler.

 

 

backclassics

2015 Translation

I read the Sing-song Girls of Shanghai as a Translated Classic for Back to the Classics Challenge

And for the Books in Translation Reading Challenge

 

fourgirlscompact

In contrast, the novella Four Girls and a Compact was light, breezy and easy to read. But also quite forgettable.

The girls are tired of work and life in the city. They’re ready for a break out in the fresh air. They send one girl out to seek their El Dorado.

“To get out of the hot, teeming city and breathe air enough and pure enough, to luxuriate in idleness, to rest‚ÄĒto a girl, they longed for it. They were all orphans, and they were all poor. The Grand Plan was ambitious, indefinite, but they could not give it up. They had wintered it and springed it, and clung to it through bright days and dark.”

The girls are a little indistinguishable but otherwise it’s a cute little story. It’s available to read online or as a free download at Project Gutenberg

backclassics

I read Four Girls and a Compact for the Back to the Classics Challenge – Novella

February in Translation (the 2013 edition)

So last year I set myself a personal challenge – reading translated works in the month of February. And I’m going to give it another try this year.

I had a rather random pool last year, so this time I would like to read from a variety of languages. So my pool is listed below, with each book translated from a different language. I’m not sure if this is really the right approach either, as there are plenty of books translated from European languages, but not very many translated from Asian (especially Southeast Asian) languages. But this will have to do for now. I’m sure I will add on to my list as I move along. And please feel free to let me know your recommendations, especially from languages I have yet to include!

 

Black flower – Young-ha Kim ; translated from the Korean by Charles La Shure
Sky burial : an epic love story of Tibet РXinran ; translated from the Chinese by Julia Lovell and Esther Tyldesle
The thief – Fuminori Nakamura ; translated from the Japanese by Satoko Izumo and Stephen Coate
All that is gone – Pramoedya Ananta Toer ; translated from the Indonesian by Willem Samuels
Divorce Islamic style – Amara Lakhous ; translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein
Dimanche and other stories РIrène Némirovsky ; translated from the French by Bridget Patterson
The year of the hare : a novel – Arto Paasilinna ; foreword by Pico Iyer ; [translated from the Finnish by Herbert Lomas]
The hottest dishes of the tartar cuisine – Alina Bronsky ; translated from the German by Tim Mohr
Stone upon stone – WiesŇāaw MyŇõliwski ; translated from the Polish by Bill Johnston
The accident : a novel – Ismail Kadare ; translated from the Albanian by John Hodgson
Censoring an Iranian love story : a novel – Shahriar Mandanipour ; translated from the Farsi by Sara Khalili
Zeina – Nawal El Saadawi – translated from the Arabic by Amira Nowaira