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J-Boys: Kazuo's World, Tokyo, 1965by Shogo Oketani
Synopses & Reviews
Kazuo Nakamoto's life in inner-city Tokyo is one of tea and tofu, of American TV and rock 'n' roll. Kazuo is nine. It is the mid-1960s, just after the Japan Olympics, and Kazuo dreams of being a track star. He hangs out with his buddies, goes to school, and helps with household chores. But Kazuo's world is changing. This bittersweet novel is a deft portrait of a year in a boy's life in a land and time far away, filled with universal concerns about fitting in, escaping the past (in this case World War II's lingering devastation), and growing up.
J-Boys author Shogo Oketani is a writer and novelist who grew up in Tokyo in the mid-1960s.
"Set in the Shinagawa Ward of southern Tokyo in the 1960s after the Olympics, Oketani's debut is as informational as it is emotional, with fictionalized yet intimate details drawn from the author's childhood. Nine-year-old Kazuo Nakamoto's life consists of attending school, visiting Yoshino's Tofu Shop, running with his friends (he fantasizes about being an athlete), and looking after his younger brother, Yasuo. Kazuo is expected to excel academically and attend graduate school to become an engineer, but he is not sure what he wants. Kazuo's musings on everything from his favorite American TV shows to his dislike of 'miruku' (the powdered milk he is forced to drink at school) and enjoyment of the public bathhouse ('In the tubs, where everyone was naked, they were all equal') are compelling. Numerous b&w photos and sidebars augment the narrative and introduce Japanese words and historical notes. As these vignettes follow the changes, big and small, in one year of Kazuo's life, they touch on a wide range of social issues confronting old and new Tokyo. Ages 8 — 12. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
J-Boys presents an appealing depiction of young boys in mid-1960s Tokyo, a time of lingering social and cultural recovery.
About the Author
Shogo Oketani was born in 1958 and raised in Tokyo. Following studies in the humanities at Keio University, he became an active writer and translator. He is well known for his translations of modernist poet Ayukawa Nobuo, for which he and his wife, author and translator Leza Lowitz, received the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature from the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture at Columbia University, and a grant from the NEA.
Avery Fischer Udagawa grew up in Kansas and studied English and Asian Studies at St. Olaf College in Minnesota. She holds an M.A. in Advanced Japanese Studies from the University of Sheffield. She has studied at Nanzan University, Nagoya, on a Fulbright Fellowship, and at the Inter-University Center for Japanese Language Studies, Yokohama. She currently parents, writes, and translates in a bicultural (Japanese/American) family living north of Bangkok.
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