Pulitzer Prize Winner Jhumpa Lahiri spoke at the Italian Cultural Institute about language, identity, and belonging in relation to a new collection of Italian Short Stories which she has edited. As translated fiction sales are up by 5.5% in the UK this year, I’m musing upon what translated fiction adds to one’s literary diet.
I first encountered Jhumpa Lahiri’s works in the last year of my undergraduate degree, when I was studying a module about ‘postcolonial literature’ (the tutors of which quickly dissected the chosen term, as all good English Lit tutors do), and I immediately fell in love with her writing. I was enthralled by Lahiri’s prose and how naturally it slips into questions of identity, migration, and belonging – themes which greatly preoccupy me. I was therefore incredibly excited when I found that she was coming to London (all the way from Princeton) and speaking at the Italian Cultural Institute about a new collection, The Penguin Book of Italian Short Stories, which she has edited (and translated).
When I had the chance to hear writer Sayaka Murata speak at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, I was very excited. I’d spotted the memorable, yellow cover of Convenience Store Woman,「コンビニ人間」at the Japan Centre and on the tube a few times and was really keen to read it.
Convenience Store Woman is a heartwarming look at identity, societal expectations and pressures on women. It shares the story of a woman called Keiko who works at a convenience store in Japan – or, as most people in Japan know them, the conbini (the Japanese title actually means ‘conbini human’). Unlike most convenience store employees though, she has been working there for 18 years – since she left University in 1998. Keiko has seen seven managers pass by and her career there has outlived all of them.
Before Winter finally settles, I’m keen to remember summer one last time. (At least the memories will keep me warm!) My strongest association with a Japanese summer is the matsuri festivals. On summer evenings, in the humidity of a thirty-degree-heat, communities gather, dressed in yukata, and enjoy the festival. It usually consists of a procession and a gathering in a local square. Crowds form around the taiko drums which are often on a stage in the centre of the square and they dance, encircling the taiko drummers. Young children who dance for the first time are taught by their parents and grandparents, who push them along gently if they forget to keep moving round. The dancing is entrancing. The beat of the taiko drums is something which still enraptures me and raises the hair on my arms with excitement.
Not to mention the food! The smokey yakitori with the most delicious sauce, the ice-cold, bright, blue kakigori which gives you brain-freeze, the warming takoyaki. I was having bubble tea at matsuri festivals way before it was hipster and cool. These memories of the sounds and smells of my childhood nourish me when I am feeling homesick.Continue reading “Remembering Summer: London Matsuri”
One of my pet hates is when books/plays written by BAME writers are perceived or labelled as culturally ‘niche’. Why do people say that? It’s a way of othering and distancing works by writers of colour for being ‘different’. It’s alienating for BAME writers and readers/audience members when it’s difficult for minority writers to get a platform and challenge the status quo in the first place. I think that it’s necessary to deconstruct this idea that we are ‘niche’, and with that in mind, here are two products of the British East Asian theatrical community which I have really enjoyed reading recently. Foreign Goods reallygot me thinking: why is this the first British East Asian collection of theatrical writing? Because it’s SO good. I hope that there’s another! Continue reading “British East Asian Theatre: “I’m not a graceful lotus flower.””
Apologies for the radio silence – uni life has been chaotically consuming recently, but I’m glad to be back! I was recently interviewed by Halu Halo, an awesome project on Instagram which aims to act as a platform for mixed race people’s experiences and voices to be heard. Check out my feature below and then give them a follow! (Credits: @halu_halo and @thenomadiclondoner) Continue reading “Featured on Halu Halo”
I was a member of the ‘mob’ audience of Nicholas Hytner’s stunning production of Julius Caesar (2018) at the Bridge Theatre, and aside from being completely blown away by the production itself and the incredible level of talent from Ben Whishaw, Michelle Farly, and the whole cast, there was one person whom I found so personally inspiring.
When Wendy Kweh graced the stage in all her elegance, I paused for breath. In that space, seeing an incredibly talented actor of Asian ethnicity onstage as a distraught Calpurnia, a realisation hit me like a wave: in all my years of growing up and going to the theatre, as far as I can recall, I had never seen an Asian actor in a professional Shakespeare play in the UK before. Moreover, I had not even realised this fact until I saw Kweh onstage, standing in front of me. I had subconsciously accepted that it did not happen – even to the extent that I had not consciously thought about it at all. Continue reading “I Wish I Had Seen Wendy Kweh Play Calpurnia When I Was a Kid”
Warning: This post is not for the empty-stomached.
For long-time followers, you’ll know that I adore okonomiyaki. That’s right, the Japanese omelette, savoury pancake, and grilled parcel of joy, covered in mayo and Bulldog sauce (like BBQ/HB sauce but better). MmmMMmmm.
This low-key obsession began three years ago, when I experienced the best meal that I’ve ever had in my whole life. In Osaka, my friends and I stepped off our shinkansen journey in the greatest city of food for just one meal. And boy, was it the lunch of dreams. Continue reading “London’s Answer to Okonomiyaki: Abeno? AbeYES”
In response to actual YouTube “make-up tutorial” videos: Being hafu is NOT a make-up look which you can wipe off at the end of the day. It is your skin.
It’s hard to be a woman. Everyone has their own story. I’ve been socialised not to complain, but actually, I’d like to take some time and space to acknowledge that sometimes it can be hard to be hafu (half-Japanese, half-“other”). In a global context, we’re a relatively small ethnic category with fairly specific cultural issues and barriers. But so many people have identity crises and doubts about “belonging”, so perhaps others will be able to relate in some way as well. I feel that it’s important for other hafu or biracial women out there to know that it’s ok to feel that it can be hard sometimes. It’s ok to feel. I’m in no way pretending that my life is one of terrible struggles or that my life is awful, but I do have a story. It’s called:
Just Because I’m Biracial, Why Do I Have to Balance Two Patriarchal Ideals of Beauty?
Happy International Women’s Day! Women and people of all genders in the world, let’s keep fighting the good fight for feminism, anti-racism, LGTBQ+ rights, and all things intersectional and good. I’ll keep it brief and refer you onto a short #girlpower list which I’ve written, featuring a few of my favourite artist-slash-activists to follow on Instagram (in no particular order!). Let me know whom else I should follow!
1. Naomi Shimada (model/storyteller)
Firstly, we share the same name – which obviously means that I love her. Secondly, Naomi often speaks about really important social issues like body image/sizeism in both the UK and Japan. As a self-identified storyteller, she clearly has a zest for life and expresses this by tossing all of the Insta rules out of the window (expect nine posts per day when she’s travelling and up to fun adventures). Her fashion style and Insta feed are brighter than Blue Ivy Carter’s future and she certainly brings sunshine to my day, which is why I love following her.
Apologies for my long absence, I was busy doing Finals exams, graduating, and then settling into a new course and University (King’s College London – I’m studying for a Contemporary Literature, Culture and Theory MA). I’m loving it but it’s been a huge whirlwind so far! I have finally settled down and have time to spend writing for my blog again. I’ve missed you!
We had Artic weather in London last week – lots of snow and temperatures so low that my phone battery was constantly non-existent. If you’re reading this from continental Europe then you probably experienced the ‘Beast from the East’ too. Of course, Canadians, Finns, and anyone from anywhere else further North in the world found the British chaos rather hilarious, which I can understand given that it was only -4˚, but nevertheless it was a memorable week in 2018’s tapestry of this city. London certainly looked beautiful, despite the drama of it all, and I felt very lucky to be studying here.
Coming up next: Food adventures, books exploring biculturalism, travel journaling, hints & tips for London life, food, food, and more food.