Okinawa Explorer: A Complete Guidebook to Okinawa

by Kenny Ehman
TK2 Productions, 2005.

In order to help visitors plan a wonderful trip to Okinawa, the Okinawa Explorer first provides background information about local customs, language, public transportation, costs, and much more. There is also an easy-to-follow Navigation section that enables visitors to choose the best locations for enjoying what interests them the most.

Kenny Ehman has lived in Okinawa since 1992. He is an English teacher at a local elementary school and has been writing professionally since 1997. Ehman is the Vice President and co-founder of NPO Okinawa O.C.E.A.N. – a non-profit organization that educates Okinawan children about marine conservation. He is currently writing a children’s book and a book of short stories about Okinawa.

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And So Flows History

by Hahn Moo-Sook
translated by Young-Key Kim-Renaud
University of Hawai’i Press, 2005.

And So Flows History (Yŏksanŭn hŭrŭnda, 1948) depicts the relentless power of exterior forces on the individual lives of three generations of the illustrious Cho family—from the waning years of the Chosŏn dynasty in the late nineteenth century to the tumultuous post-liberation era. The novel opens with a tragic confrontation between two classes: the rape of a young slave by her master, the respected magistrate Cho Tongjun. Within a year, the magistrate has been murdered by Tonghak rebels, and his two sons are leading the family to ruin—one on account of his blind adherence to tradition, the other owing to his collaboration with the Japanese. Only Tongjun’s youngest child provides hope for the future through her marriage to a enlightened young teacher and patriot. (Publisher’s description)

Hahn Moo-Sook (1918–1993) is one of Korea’s most successful writers of modern realist literature. She received many awards for her writing, including the 1986 Grand Prix of the Republic of Korea Literature Award for her novel Encounter. And So Flows History, Hahn’s first novel, received first prize in a 1947 contest organized by a major Korean daily.

Young-Key Kim-Renaud is the eldest daughter of Hahn Moo-Sook. She is chair of the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures and professor of Korean language and culture and international affairs at George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

Japanese Demon Lore: Oni from Ancient Times to the Present

by Noriko T. Reider
Utah State University Press, 2010.

Oni, ubiquitous supernatural figures in Japanese literature, lore, art, and religion, usually appear as demons or ogres. Characteristically, they are threatening, monstrous creatures with ugly features and fearful habits, including cannibalism. They also can be harbingers of prosperity, beautiful and sexual, and especially in modern contexts, even cute and lovable. There has been much ambiguity in their character and identity over their long history. Usually male, their female manifestations convey distinctively gendered social and cultural meanings.
Oni appear frequently in various arts and media, from Noh theater and picture scrolls to modern fiction and political propaganda, they remain common figures in popular Japanese anime, manga, and film and are becoming embedded in American and international popular culture through such media. Noriko Reider’s book would be the first in English devoted to oni. Reider fully examines their cultural history, multifaceted roles, and complex significance as “others” to the Japanese. (Publisher’s description)

Noriko T. Reider is associate professor of Japanese at Miami University. She is the author of Tales of the Supernatural in Early Modern Japan: Kaidan, Akinari, Ugetsu monogatari (2002). Her articles and reviews have appeared in such journals as Asian Folklore Studies, Japan Forum, Film Criticism, and International Journal of Asian Studies.

I Hotel

By Karen Tei Yamashita Coffeehouse Press, 2010 I Hotel nets the social and personal ferment of San Francisco in the years 1968–1977 in ten interconnected, stylistically varied segments. As the novel unfolds, we meet orphaned teenager Paul and his mentor Chen, a radical professor; Mo Akagi, a Yellow Panther; Gerald, an avant-garde saxophonist; Sandy Hu, an innovative choreographer; and a variety of other gutsy and inventive activists who comprise a broad spectrum of Asian Americans asserting their rights—the Yellow Power Movement. With a rich soundscape punctuated by James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and Janis Joplin; Mao, Malcolm, and Martin; and a narrative pastiche of demonstrations, jam sessions, guerrilla theater, and kung fu; transcripts, puns, and letters, Yamashita’s novel of the dawn of Asian American culture depicts a clamorous and righteous era of protest and creativity. (Booklist)

Karen Tei Yamashita is a Japanese American writer and Associate Professor of Literature at University of California, Santa Cruz, where she teaches creative writing and Asian American literature. She has also written a number of plays and is a finalist for the 2010 National Book Award.

Until Peonies Bloom

By Kim Yeong-nang
Translated by Brother Anthony of Taize
MerwinAsia, 2010

Kim Yeong-nang (1903–1950) is highly reputed in Korea for the delicate lyricism of his poems. Yet in many ways he has remained little known, even in Korea, limited to a small number of often anthologized poems. Although he was a resolute opponent of Japanese colonial rule, he did not suffer frequent imprisonment, or death, so his role as a champion of Korean independence has largely been ignored. Killed in bombing near the start of the Korean War, he had no time to participate in the development of a new Korean poetry.

Many of Kim Yeong-nang’s earlier poems clearly express opposition to Japanese rule; after Liberation in 1945, he wrote to express his agony at the looming conflict between leftists and rightists that he saw threatening to tear Korea apart. At the same time, most of his poems are bold experiments in forms of Modernism; his use of images and symbols as well as his exploration of native Korean rhythms make him one of the most rewarding and challenging poets of his time. He spent most of his life in his native Gangjin, far removed from the literary world of Seoul, and the beauty of the Jeolla Province landscapes, as well as its dialect’s vocabulary, underlie his poetry. (Publisher’s description)

Brother Anthony of Taize is Emeritus Professor of English Literature at Sogang University. He has published over twenty-five translations and edited several anthologies of works of Korean literature.

The Curious Tale of Mandogi’s Ghost

by Kim Sok-Pom
Columbia University Press, 2010

The Curious Tale of Mandogi’s Ghost incorporates Korean folk tales, ghost stories, and myth into a depiction of epic tragedy. Written by a zainichi, a permanent resident of Japan who is not of Japanese ancestry, the novel tells the story of Mandogi, a young priest living on the island of Cheju-do. Mandogi becomes unwittingly involved in the Four-Three Incident of 1948, in which the South Korean government brutally suppressed an armed peasant uprising and purged Cheju-do of communist sympathizers. Although Mandogi is sentenced to death for his part in the riot, he survives (in a sense) to take revenge on his enemies and fully commit himself to the resistance. The Curious Tale of Mandogi’s Ghost relates the trauma of a long-forgotten history and its indelible imprint on Japanese and Korean memory. (Publisher’s description)

Kim Sok-pom was born in Osaka, Japan, to Korean parents who emigrated from the island of Cheju-do. He is best known for his seven-volume fictional work, Kazanto (Volcano Island), which centers on the Cheju Uprising of 1948.

The Chrysanthème Papers: The Pink Notebook of Madame Chrysanthème and other Documents of French Japonisme

by Christopher Reed
University of Hawai’i Press, 2010

Pierre Loti’s novel Madame Chrysanthème (1888) enjoyed great popularity during the author’s lifetime, served as a source of Puccini’s opera Madama Butterfly, and remains in print to this day as a classic in Western literature. Loti’s story describes the affair between a French naval officer and Chrysanthème, a temporary “bride” purchased in Nagasaki. More broadly, Loti’s novel helped define the terms in which Occidentals perceived Japan as delicate, feminine, and, to use one of Loti’s favorite words, “preposterous”—in short, ripe for exploitation.

Written by Félix Régamey, a talented illustrator with firsthand knowledge of Japan, The Pink Notebook of Madame Chrysanthème (1893) retells Loti’s story but this time as the diary of Chrysanthème. The book, presented here in English for the first time and together with the original French text and illustrations by Régamey and others, is certainly surprising in its late nineteenth-century context. Its retelling of a classic tale from the position of a character marginalized by her sex and race provocatively anticipates certain aspects of postmodern literature. Translator Christopher Reed’s emphasis on competing Western ideas about Japan challenges conventional scholarly generalizations concerning Japanism in this era. (Publisher’s description)

Christopher Reed is associate professor of English and visual culture at the Pennsylvania State University.