The inspiration for this series came from a perfect storm of realizations. First, I spent my summer obsessing over Anaïs Nin (I read 8 of her diaries in this time). In these diaries, Nin writes at length about the various female writers she admires. Curious, I looked all these women up and wound up reading a lot of their work, too. As fantastic as all these books are, I could feel a dissonance that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Then I realized, of course, that none of these works were by women of colour. I could hear Chimamanda Adichie’s voice from her 2009 TED Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story” in my mind reminding me, well, of the danger that can come of only ever engaging with stories written by people representing the status quo.
Then I spied the necessary, informative article by Roxanne Gay on The Nation, which pointed out that we need, “broader, better literary conversations.” In 2011, Gay, “did a rough count of how many books by writers of color were reviewed in The New York Times in 2011. The numbers were grim but unsurprising. White writers wrote nearly 90% of the books covered by the paper of record.” From all this, it seemed my mission was clear: I need to be reading books written by women whose identity is similar to my own, and then start talking about them. I need another story to contemplate, because these voices and experiences are important, just like my own. Join me for a new review every time I finish a new book by an Asian woman about Asian women right here on Gender Focus.
Hiromi Goto’s Chorus of Mushrooms
Calgary fans and citizens rejoice, because this one’s for you: Crowchild and Macleod Trail are only a couple of the many places mentioned in [Insert series name here]’s first stop, Chorus of Mushrooms.
Entirely based in this prairie metropolis, Chorus of Mushrooms, author Hiromi Goto’s very first novel, is pretty great, having won the feminist-friendly James Tiptree Jr. award in 2001 (amongst other honours). The snow-laden and windblown landscapes so familiar to the Northwest and Southeast alike serve as the merciless background to where we find our lustful protagonists making their way–suffice to say that the weather can’t stop them.
A theme from this novel that I would like to focus on for this first review is the poignant discussion of sexuality, which happens with a frankness Hannah Horvath would certainly appreciate.
Indeed, Goto’s book, though 20 years old, is not at all out of place in the current Girls-landscape of no-holds-barred approach to discussion on a relatively taboo topic. Except, of course, with Goto’s writing, she is discussing the sexuality of women of colour, specifically Japanese-Canadian women of three different generations. Read more