(Spoiler Alert: you have been warned!)
(Also I didn’t realize that both authors on these books had the same first name.) Anyway, I have been reading more books by Asian authors these last few months. Besides manga, I have read a few science fiction, dystopian and memoir-ish books. Because it has been a while, I would like to mention a few:
- The Citadel of Weeping Pearls by Aliette de Bodard: this scifi book I randomly found on my public library’s website and read for the summer reading challenge. I have a feeling it’s part of a series, but it still has an engaging story. It’s based in outer space, there’s talking ships, ancestors in holographic form?! It’s so great, I have become a fan of this author already and want to read the rest of her books of this universe.
The Warrior Woman: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston. While this book can be read as an autobiography, each chapter also contains a fictional or folk tale element. Again, or if I haven’t mentioned yet, I enjoy reading intergenerational stories, especially when it has to do with relationships between mothers and daughters. Every chapter was it’s own story, but also wasn’t, connecting to the other chapters.
The Emissary/ The Last Children of Tokyo
By Yoko Tawada; translated by Margaret Mitsutani
In this dystopian world that takes place in Japan, children are growing older and weaker while still maintaining a young body in contrast to older bodied people who are growing stronger and living longer (some past 110 years old). We follow Mumei and his great grandfather/guardian Yoshiro, and their lives in Tokyo where throughout the story is mentioned less people are living. It was also mentioned that Japan had closed off its borders from the outside world, and while there wasn’t a specific reason, other articles and book reviews assume it has to do with a nuclear fallout. The book does mention how the land was bad to grow things in and the architecture wasn’t pleasant as well as how other countries had decided to solve their own problems. Regardless, under Mumei’s perspective, we see these events in a positive and hopeful light. He gets excited to go to school and be with his classmates and learn about the outside world from his teacher. From what I remember, there wasn’t any mention of any child passing away from aging. But the concerns are there when we read from Yoshiro’s perspective, even though he does believe in some sort of future because of his grandson. It was an enjoyable book, even though it was short.
While The Emissary was taken in place in a surreal time concerning the children and their aging process along with what future may hold for the rest of the country, I think The Memory Police (I will be using TMP for short) takes it a step further. I actually began to read both books at the same time, which at first got me confused because the stories began with similar plots but as TMP progressed, it got darker. In TMP, the story again is based most likely in Japan who, although it wasn’t named, again, closed off their borders from the rest of the world. And in this case, objects (and therefore the concepts that come from them) began to disappear as well the people’s memories of them. The citizens don’t really seem to mind when these things disappear, but there are people who can’t forget them and they live in fear of the organization The Memory Police who dedicate themselves to making sure that everyone forgets. There isn’t any mention on where the Memory Police come from or where the people who can’t forget go when they are taken by the Memory Police. As things kept disappearing, it made me wonder what would happen if it did happen in real life. There was a point of the story when eventually people forgot about some parts of their body! It was totally shocking and left an impression on me. Very surreal.