Squeaky Wheels is a Winner!

I’m so excited to report that my mother/daughter travel memoir was named Best Novel/Biography in the inaugural Half the World Global Literati Awards! (See details below!)

113

Global, July 15, 2016 – Half the World Holdings, a women-focused investment platform, Friday announced Laurie Petrou as the winner of the inaugural Half the World Global Literati Award 2016. The prestigious international award recognizes unpublished work that reflects the complexity of women’s lives, and has at their heart a central female protagonist.
The winning submission, ‘Sister of Mine’, is a psychological thriller that explores themes of loyalty, betrayal and debt through the lives of two sisters bound by a knot of secrecy. Author Laurie Petrou is an associate professor of The RTA School of Media, Ryerson University, Toronto.

“The judges rewarded the taut writing of a compulsive page-turner which explores the complex relationship between two sisters with a damaging secret. Our shortlist plays with the themes of adventure and courage, dignity and struggle, with characters motivated by an overarching sense of love” explained Caroline Bowler, representative for Half the World Holdings. “We are moved to see this award embraced by all walks of life, from all over the world. This represents a very real desire to recognize women at the center of our cultural lives.”
Along with the top prize, there were also category and People’s Choice award winners, each collecting US$1,000. Suzanne Kamata, based in Japan, collected top prize in the novel category. Her teenage daughter, Lilia, was born deaf and affected by cerebral palsy but this hasn’t dinted her sense of adventure and thirst for exploration. Suzanne’s honest and raw biography ‘Squeaky Wheels’ describes a mother’s love to open up the world to her child.

Danna Petersen-Deeprose, a student at McGill University Montreal, collected the short story prize for her work ‘Looking for Lost Girl’, which describes the journey of a woman in her mid-twenties looking for the courage to start her own life. Top screenwriter Lisa Hagen has two old ladies plot their escape from a retirement home in ‘Dancing on the Elephant.’ The two friends explore the big questions in life; what is my legacy and why am I even here? Friendship was also the key theme for the People’s Choice award, decided by thousands of votes from the general public. Eventual winner was LA-based Jude Roth whose screenplay ‘Plan B’ tells of 3 women and the bonds that carry them when the chips are really down.

The Half the World Global Literati Award was set up in response to 2015 research from author Nicola Griffith, which identified that the majority of the significant literary prizes are awarded to works written from a male perspective. The award is set to return in spring 2017.

Statistics about the Half the World Global Literati Award 2016.
• 59 countries including Eritrea, Iran, Azerbaijan, Mexico, Trinidad & Tobago
• 45.5 percent submissions are novels, 36.5 percent short stories, 18 percent screenplays

• Drama the most popular genre, topping novels & screenplays and a close second for short stories. Literary Fiction was the second most popular with Romance in third. Erotica comprised of less than 5 percent of all entrants.
• Majority of the short list are female (82.5 percent) vs male (17.5 percent)

About Half the World Holdings
Half the World Holdings, which was launched by Blackrun Ventures in March 2016, is a global investment platform in companies for whom women are the end-consumer. The
Half the World platform provides the capital, advisory and international networks needed to develop and scale these ventures globally. Blackrun and Half the World Holdings partners come from the worlds of private equity, investment banking, multinational businesses and entrepreneurship, with offices in Berlin, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, Mumbai, New York, Sydney and Singapore.
For more information, please visit http://halftheworld.media.

Bigger in Russia

img094

“A couple of years later, I got an email from the foreign rights department of a publisher in Russia. In grammatically creative English, the sender asked me to send copies of Call Me Okaasan, a collection of essays I’d edited on mothering children across two or more cultures, and my novel, Losing Kei. The message came through my website, not through my agent or publisher, so I immediately thought it was some sort of scam. Maybe they’d ask me to front a few thousand rubles for the translation of my books. Maybe they’d just ask for my bank details or credit card number, without having any intention of translating or publishing the work whatsoever.” Read more.

Review of KAMI AND KAZE by Wena Poon

Kami and Kaze by Wena Poon, Sutajio Wena, (2014), pp. 136

 

img100

As the novella begins, Kate, an independent American woman arrives in Occupied Kyoto to do public relations work for the U.S. Army. Specifically, she has been assigned to deal with the fallout from the deaths of 68 Japanese infants who’d been vaccinated for diphtheria by American Army medics.

Against her will, Kate is assigned a Japanese driver, Shinji Nakamura, who gradually becomes not only her window into Japanese culture, but also her friend, and then something more.

The title refers, of course, to the Japanese pilots who were sent on suicide missions during World War II. For Kate, “kamikaze” is “Fourteen-year-old boys brainwashed, put in junk planes – retired planes that didn’t even work properly – so that they could crash themselves into our ships. Stupid, stupid.” But for Shinji, the word is more complicated:

“Kami is God, It is the power that you feel around you in a mountain forest. It is the empty heart of the shrine. Even saying the word, kami, creates a feeling of wonder, of being watched and protected by something big, a giant…Kaze is wind. Kaze can be a typhoon that destroys a village, or a gentle spring breeze on your face. But now, because of the war, kami kaze, two beautiful ideas put together, has become one dirty word…It’s very painful.”

Although this is an historical novel, Poon’s breezy writing style gives it a contemporary feel, as does Kate’s preoccupation with wheat, and the occasional up-to-date slang. Poon would be the first to tell you, however, that she isn’t interested in being entirely accurate. As she writes in the notes at the end of the book, “It is annoying to think that some smart aleck reader would write in or review this saying ‘you are an ignorant author, for the earthquake did not happen in winter, it was actually summer…In some parts I have deliberately chosen to depart from known facts in order to advance the story, or adhere to certain aesthetic preferences.” Sticklers to historical fact are welcome to refer to Poon’s list of bibliography at the back of the book.

Neither American, nor Japanese, Poon is a Singaporean of Chinese descent, and a Harvard graduate, now living in Texas. Even as an outsider, she has managed to create a believable, bittersweet story.

 

My Profile of Ama Ata Aidoo

Over the seven decades of her career, Ghanaian writer Ama Ata Aidoo has published award-winning novels, plays, short stories, children’s books, and poetry, and influenced generations of African women writers. Before Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie of the award-winning bestselling novels and viral TED talks, before Doreen Baingana, Helen Oyeyemi, Sefi Atta, Taiye Selasi, NoViolet Bulawayo and any other of the number of rising female literary stars out of Africa, Aidoo was blazing trails. In fact, in her endorsement of Aidoo’s most recent book, Adichie writes “I occupy the space of a ‘Black African Happy Feminist’ because writers like Ama Ata Aidoo came before me. Her storytelling nurtured mine. Her worldview enlarged and validated mine.” – See more at: http://www.literarymama.com/profiles/archives/2016/02/a-profile-of-ama-ata-aidoo-draft.html#sthash.qgOfgt7Q.dpuf

 

ama-ata-aidoo-1

 

 

10 Novels-in-Verse That You Should Read

In honor of National Poetry Month, I’d like to introduce some of my favorite novels in verse for young adults, in no particular order.

 

 

  1. Up From The Sea by Leza Lowitz

 

Lowitz imagines the earthquake and tsunami which devastated Northeastern Japan five years ago through the eyes of Kai, a biracial Japanese boy. At turns harrowing and heartbreaking, this book is ultimately hopeful.

img095

  1. Purple Daze by Sherry Shahan

 

Set in 1965, this book follows the lives of a group of high school friends whose lives are impacted by the war in Vietnam, riots, and assassinations. But they also go to drive-in movies, fall in love, and go to parties.

HollyThompson TheLanguageInside book cover

  1. The Language Inside by Holly Thompson

 

Third Culture Kid Emma Karas finds herself in Massachusetts after living in Japan for many years. She begins to volunteer at a long-term care center, helping a poet with locked-in syndrome get her poems down on paper. Meanwhile, Emma stats spending time with a Cambodian dancer who is a fellow volunteer.

 

  1. Dust of Eden by Mariko Nagai

 

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Mina Tagawa and her Japanese-American family are rounded up and sent to an internment camp in the middle of the desert. Nagai presents a shameful slice of American history with beauty and grace.

img096

  1. Impulse by Ellen Hopkins

 

Talk about gritty, realistic fiction! Tony, Vanessa, and Connor battle self-destructive impulses ranging — pill-popping, cutting, and suicidal urges. Hopkins is the queen of intensity.

 

  1. Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham

 

One day Jane has just about everything a fifteen-year-old girl could want, the next, a shark bites off her arm while she’s swimming. Bingham explores disability and self-acceptance in this stand-out novel.

 

  1. The Good Braider by Terry Farish

 

Cultures clash in this story of Viola, a young woman refugee from South Sudan who tries to adjust to her new life in Portland, Oregon.

 

  1. Karma by Cathy Ostlere

 

This book is epic adventure set in India, just after the assassination of Indira Gandhi. Fifteen-year-old Canadian Maya is visiting India with her father after her mother’s suicide, when she gets swept up in the mayhem.

 

  1. Fishtailing by Wendy Philips

 

Philips captures all of the angst of high school in this story of four teens in a Canadian classroom. Through distinct poetic voices, Natalie, Kyle, Trish, and Miguel share stories of domestic violence, sexual abuse, step-families, and rebellion.

 

  1. T4 by Ann Clare Lezotte

 

Lezotte, who is deaf herself, wrote this story of Paula Becker, a deaf teen in Nazi Germany, where people with disabilities were systematically eliminated, along with Jews and others. Sometimes the most difficult subjects are best expressed in the simplest words.

 

Gadget Girl named the APALA Honor Book for YA Literature!

GadgetGirl_FinalSome happy news! Gadget Girl was named the APALA Honor Book in the young adult category at last weekend’s ALA Midwinter Conference in Philadelphia. I am extremely grateful to the Asian Pacific Librarians Association, as well as my publisher, GemmaMedia, my fellow SCBWI-Japan members, and everyone else who has given this book a chance. I am thrilled to find myself in the company of honorees Linda Sue Park, Gene Luen Yang, Ruth Ozeki, Leza Lowitz, Shogo Oketani, Cynthia Kadohata, and Jennifer Cody Epstein, among others.  Here is the full list of this year’s winners and honor books.

Of course you can purchase copies at Amazon, Powells, The Book Depository, Barnes and Noble, or your local bookstore (though you may have to ask them to order it). You can also check it out of your local library (or ask the library to order a copy if it’ s not yet in the collection).

 

A Few Thoughts About Aprons

Souvenir stalls around the world tend to offer more or less the same things – T-shirts, mugs, keychains, and snow globes. But on my recent visits to Paris, I noticed something new – just about every vendor offered a selection of aprons embellished with Parisian motifs. No doubt these aprons are a nod to France’s world class cuisine, but I have another theory of how they came to be so widely sold.

Paris is full of Japanese tourists. Japanese visitors, as everyone in the tourist trade must know by now, are more or less obligated to buy gifts for all of their friends, family, and colleagues back home. (For the record, I gave all of my neighbors packages of French cookies. I brought my sister-in-law macarons the first time, and chocolates from Aoki Sadaharu’s shop the second.) And Japanese women wear aprons.

As far as I can tell, Japanese housewives wear aprons all day long. In movies and picture books, they are always wearing aprons. I imagine they don one as soon as they get up in the morning. And at the grocery store, there is often a woman shopping in her apron. As an American brought up to be a career woman, one who would split housework with her husband, I associate aprons with 1950s-style submissiveness. I occasionally put one on when I’m baking, because I have a tendency to wipe my hands on my clothes, but I would never wear one in public.

Years ago, when I was about to get married, some of my adult English language conversation students threw a bridal shower for me. I was appalled to find that many of them had given me aprons.

Nevertheless, they have been out to use. They actually come in quite handy. Every time there is a school event, it seems mothers are required to wear aprons. My kids do a lot of cooking at school, too, and these occasions require aprons.

I actually bought an apron at a tourist stall near Notre Dame…for my sister-in-law. I thought about getting one for my husband, too, since he is now our chief breakfast-maker and does most of the cooking on the weekends. And maybe I could have gotten one for my son, who is a grill-meister in training. But I only had so much space in my suitcase.

I’m planning on looking for a manly apron at the shopping mall near my house. What do you think the odds are of finding an apron for a guy in the most conservative corner of Japan?