18 March 2008

Review:: Hiroshima Dreams (novel)

On August 6, 1945, Hiroshima was destroyed by an atomic bomb. In Hiroshima Dreams, writer Kelly Easton takes this historic event and creates an interracial family drama that almost-- almost!-- delivers.

The basic gist surrounds Lin and her gift for sight. Yes, that kind of sight. She knows things most young girls do not. She can look into the past and into the future. Pretty exciting stuff, huh? However, it never really brings anything original or memorable. Though the relationship between Lin and her Japanese grandmother is sweet, I can't say that any one particular scene stood out. The story sort of came and went.

What does make this novel rather special is how it portrays parts of Japanese culture in a relatively realistic, non-touristy way. I mean, some of the prose was more formulaic than poetic. There are still some very real moments here. Instead of talking about how hip it is to be a half-Japanese girl, it hints at the difficult family politics of being Asian but choosing to live in the United States, the way Lin's mother does. One particularly moving scene has the introverted Lin being confused for a Chinese girl-- an unfortunate situation witnessed by many Asian Americans among homogeneous American cultures.

This novel is definitely a product of its time. For a teen of the '90s, this is kinda cool. There are references to Buffy the Vampire Slayer back when it was still on TV, to the day the Twin Towers came down, and to the fervor to impeach Bush. Oh wait, that's still going on. In a sense, this is about the fantastical in a very grounded and real setting.

For anyone interested in magic realism with a Japanese twist, give Hiroshima Dreams a shot.

7.65 of 9.
While the portrayal of the culture had a genuine feel, the characters did not. At times, Lin felt a little too orchestrated by complete maturity. Some real-life teens indeed are quite adult-like, but Lin was more like what an adult thinks a gifted teen would be like.
Slow-ish but in a real-time kinda way.
Early teens and up. It helps to have an interest in real Japanese culture, not just in J-pop confections. There isn't really any adult content to worry about at all. It's the kind of book that I think most parents would find pretty harmless.
Like it? Try this!::
In terms of reading a book about another Asian seer, try Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's The Queen of Dreams.
Further Notes::
It didn't leave me thinking, ooh I'm so glad I read this! I like finishing books and looking back with satisfaction, sadness, joy... anything! This one left me wanting more, but not in a refreshing good way. It was more like disappointment. I don't know if I can entirely blame it on the book, because there were parts that I enjoyed. I was just hoping it would be more memorable.