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REVIEW: Gaijin by Remittance Girl

Dear Remittance Girl,

Your novella, Gaijin, caught me by surprise. A friend recommended it to me on Twitter and then loaned it to me through my Kindle. I had heard about it and investigated purchasing it once before, but shied away from making an actual purchase. Somehow, I wasn’t expecting as much thoughtfulness as I got.
Gaijin

To begin with, I want to make it clear to readers of this review that Gaijin is in no way a romance. It is erotica, but whether or not a reader finds it erotic will likely depend on that reader’s feelings about reading rape scenes. All the sex scenes in Gaijin are non-consensual, and for me, the novella’s strength was that it doesn’t shield readers from that knowledge, and yet, despite its toughness, it was bearable to read.

There is not much plot to Gaijin. Instead, there is a situation, and it is a tough situation.

Jennifer awoke to a dull throbbing pain in her chest. She opened her eyes to blackness and felt an immediate flare of panic. She wasn’t at home; this wasn’t her room, her bed. The pain in her breasts, a hot, pulsing, generalized ache, was all that distracted her from the strangeness she had found herself in. Someone, something had tried to hurt her.

Instinctively, she tried to pull her arms up to cradle her chest, but her arms wouldn’t move. They felt frozen and useless, numb, behind her back. Another bright bloom of panic surged up her throat and exploded in her head and, this time, no amount of pain could stop its eruption. Jennifer rolled onto her side and screamed into the darkness.

Jennifer has been in Japan for a year, working at a place called the Blonde Chicks bar. Now she has been kidnapped by a man whom she had refused to serve instead of the table she was booked to work at. Shindo has had Jennifer’s nipples pierced while she was passed out, but he has waited until she is awake to rape her.

I don’t want to spoil exactly what befalls Jennifer and what she does to try to change her situation. Instead, I would rather talk about the novella’s themes. At 57 pages it is pretty short, and it comes to an end quickly, but what I liked about it was that it left me thinking.

At its center were two issues, rape and culture clash. No character was fully sympathetic, not even Jennifer, despite her plight. She has little cultural sensitivity and seems to have been drawn to Japan for its surface beauty and then stung by a bad case of culture shock.

She knew nothing about the Japanese male psyche. A year of flattering them hadn’t given her any insight into what made them tick, really. All she knew was that, at some level, they were all insane; the outrageous lengths they would go to, just to avoid having their pride hurt, their “face.” Face, she didn’t understand it. She only knew that their whole world revolved around it. And how would piercing her nipples and then killing her save anyone’s face?

Here’s what I liked about Gaijin: how in one paragraph you can take me from feeling alienation from Jennifer’s racism, to feeling terrible pity for her and almost understanding her warped point of view.

I wasn’t sure if I was meant to share her perspective or meant to revile it; in a discomifiting way, I was reminded of my first year as a new immigrant in the US, when, at age eleven, I hated the fricking squirrels because they were so alien to me. For me, Jennifer’s hatefulness toward Japanese men was at once horrible and believable and in no way justified Shindo’s treatment of her.

Jennifer isn’t the only ethnocentric character in the story. Shindo and his cohorts throw around the term gaijin a lot, and it feels as though some of them don’t see her humanity or acknowledge her suffering.

Shindo is a mystery, in that we never get his POV and like Jennifer I didn’t quite know what to expect from him. He seems to have some kind of obsession with Jennifer, he rapes her over and over and demands to know why she is cold, yet his demands came across as absurd, since there is far greater coldness in his actions toward her far than in her honesty with him.

There are moments when we glimpse Shindo’s humanity. For example, at one point in the story we learn that Shindo’s father was in one secondary character’s view, far worse than Shindo. In a lesser book, this would be our cue to sympathize with Shindo – to pity him for having possibly been abused. Here, it’s just one more signpost on a road to purgatory. Nothing, not Jennifer’s racism, not Shindo’s crappy childhood, and not the orgasms he inflicts on his victim, serves to justify his actions.

The friend who loaned me the story said that it was almost an exercise in forcing reality on the reader through Jennifer’s POV, and one that casts a harsh light on the rape fantasy. That was how I felt about it too. It didn’t matter to me that the sex was erotic at times. In some books with non-consensual scenes, I consent for the heroine. Here, I couldn’t consent, but what enabled me to keep reading was the beauty of the language.

He sat up, straddled her hips, and began to unbutton his shirt. Jennifer turned her head, fixing her gaze on the snow beyond the window. Now it was dark, all she could see was the flurry of white particles, illuminated by the light inside, brushing chaotically against the black pane.

Life was like that, she thought as she heard the fabric of his shirt rustle, sometimes you got elected president, sometimes you got raped. Life was mindless chaos.

“Look at me.”

It was hard to drag her gaze away from the window. There was something stupidly Zen and comforting in the fact that she hadn’t done anything to get here. She was a snowflake that had brushed up against a plane of black obsidian.

“Look at me!” he barked.

Gaijin isn’t perfect. There are some copyediting errors and the novella feels abbreviated, more of slice-of-life vignette than a story. Also, at $3.99 for 57 pages, the price seems kind of steep. For me it was worth reading nonetheless, thanks to the discomfort I felt at what happened and the odd comfort provided by the imagery and words. B.

Sincerely,

Janine

PS Since a spoiler was requested in the comments, I have added one below:

[spoiler]Yes, Jennifer does escape.[/spoiler]

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Janine Ballard loves well-paced, character driven novels in historical romance, fantasy, YA, and the occasional outlier genre. Recent examples include novels by Katherine Addison, Meljean Brook, Kristin Cashore, Cecilia Grant, Rachel Hartman, Ann Leckie, Jeannie Lin, Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, Miranda Neville, and Nalini Singh. Janine also writes fiction. Her critique partners are Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran and Bettie Sharpe. Her erotic short story, “Kiss of Life,” appears in the Berkley anthology AGONY/ECSTASY under the pen name Lily Daniels. You can email Janine at janineballard at gmail dot com or find her on Twitter @janine_ballard.

46 Comments

  1. Jen
    May 14, 2012 @ 14:26:01

    Wow. I will never read this, but I really want someone to tell me how it ends! Does she escape? A review of a book or movie like this makes me very anxious. If it were a movie I would immediately google for spoilers.

    What is the point of this book (asking honestly) – is it meant to be erotic/titillating, or horror…? It sounds like one of those T&A-filled exploitation films.

  2. Moriah Jovan
    May 14, 2012 @ 14:38:24

    What is the point of this book

    It was a story someone had to tell. That’s all the point it needs to exist.

  3. Jen
    May 14, 2012 @ 14:50:10

    @Moriah – I didn’t really mean that to sound so negative, like it didn’t have a place, or like the author didn’t have the right to write such a story. I guess I was just having trouble wrapping my head around it.

  4. Dana W
    May 14, 2012 @ 14:59:43

    @Jen – I understood what you meant. I don’t think you were making any big implications about whether the author had a ‘right’ to write what they wanted. I do agree with you though and feel that if we’re able to make generalizations about the origin of blaxpoitation films or movies like Sucker Punch then it should be valid for you to ask what makes this different since the premise is so extreme. You didn’t sound judgmental to me.

  5. Violetta Vane
    May 14, 2012 @ 15:07:11

    I’m not going to read this either, but going by the review, the prose does seem very beautiful, and the sexual interracial stuff seems thoughtful as well.

    It’s rare to find good literary erotica, so I wouldn’t mind paying the price if captivity was my sort of thing.

  6. Janine
    May 14, 2012 @ 17:23:36

    @Jen: Since you requested the spoiler, I have added one in a postscript to my review.

    You ask an interesting question by asking “What is the point of such a story?” I can’t speak for the author, but for me the point of reading it was that it really made me think. Although it was published as erotica, I didn’t see the eroticism as the point of the story. It didn’t feel even remotely like an exploitative film to me because it had more depth and complexity than that. I saw the story as having more than one point, but the main one that was my takeaway was that one wrong does not make another wrong right. Both of the main characters felt human and vulnerable and imperfect and real; however none of that made what happened to Jennifer any less a violation.

  7. Janine
    May 14, 2012 @ 17:29:52

    @Dana W: Just to add to what I said to Jen — to me this was an anti-rape fantasy story.

  8. Susan
    May 14, 2012 @ 17:52:18

    A little bit too intense for me, I think. This sounds like that real-life story about the Japanese guy who kidnapped a number of Western women working in Japan.

    Thanks for the spoiler.

    (Alien squirrels?)

  9. Maili
    May 14, 2012 @ 18:37:43

    Ouch. When I read this review, I thought of Lucie Blackman, a British girl who worked in a Japanese ‘white-girl’ hostess bar, and Lindsay Hawker, a British conversation teacher, in Japan. On separate occasions, both were abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered by Japanese young men, who apparently had horrid upbringings. There were many silly speculations – such as some in the media believed both girls were chosen because they were blondes and blah blah. So yeah, this story is too close to home for me, I think.

  10. Janine
    May 14, 2012 @ 18:57:34

    @Susan: Yeah, I grew up in Israel and when I first arrived in the US at the beginning of seventh grade, I felt so homesick that the unfamiliarity of things like abundant greenery and squirrels made me feel alienated from my new surroundings. I think Remittance Girl captures similar feelings of homesickness and culture shock in Jennifer’s character.

    @Maili: The plot does sound very similar to those abduction stories and I can understand why you’d prefer to avoid this story.

  11. Mirole
    May 14, 2012 @ 20:09:04

    Janine, I loved your review and especially your post #6 where you clarify some points.

    That’s exactly how I felt – that it was not erotica per se, it was just a human story.

    I loved the story even more than you did. I read it three times in a row, I was so enchanted with the prose. It’s one of my most treasured ebooks. I am just in awe of Remittance Girl (inexplicably, I have not read anything else by her but I most definitely will).

    I recommend this novella to those who like good writing.

  12. Janine
    May 14, 2012 @ 20:46:56

    @Mirole: Glad you enjoyed the review and the novella! Yes, I agree, “just a human story” sums it up very well.

  13. Remittance Girl
    May 14, 2012 @ 21:36:39

    Hello Janine,
    It gives me a great feeling of accomplishment that reading my work triggered you to write such a considered and nuanced review. It’s intelligent and insightful and I thank you for it. Any writer would be proud to have their work taken as seriously as you have taken this one. Your criticism about the structure of the book is spot on. The ending is… argh… the right ending, I think, from a story perspective, but not very well executed. It’s my awful weakness. And though I have grown a lot as a writer since I wrote Gaijin, endings are still my weakness.

    It goes against all the literary theory Barthes had to offer us for me to tell you what I ‘meant’ when writing the book. What I meant doesn’t matter.

    But I think it’s fair to offer some thoughts on where I situated the story, conceptually. I have, for many years, been interested in the dynamics of how people consume or are ‘sold’ cultures that are not their own. All the way from ‘picture yourself in this exotic location, experience the exotic food, meet the friendly natives’ holiday brochures, to the experience of being an expatriot – being a stranger in a strange land. Having been that for many years, I see not only that, as foreigners we simplify, objectify and fetishize the ‘foreign’, but that those foreigners do the same to us. We exploit each others’ divergences from our norms and feed our desire for the ‘exotic’. Then, when that difference offends us, we denigrate it.

    I wrote Gaijin as an erotic story because I’m an erotic fiction writer. That’s the lens through which I tell all my stories. I am a great admirer of Edward Said and his writings on the eroticization of the foreign. I’m also interested in the kind of world-view that a life-long exposure to manga might engender. The highly abstracted, simplistic portrayal of character. And then, of course, the encounter with the real. I was very interested in that encounter with the real and how people behave when it becomes clear that all their assumptions and projections were wrong.

  14. Janine
    May 15, 2012 @ 00:43:25

    @Remittance Girl: Thanks for commenting. It’s always interesting to hear an author’s perspective when it’s offered in such a thoughtful way. I’m very fond of stories with a culture clash theme, my favorite being Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. Probably because of my own experience of emigrating, that theme rarely fails to resonate with me. I’ve also briefly visited Japan and have family members who live there, so part of what made Gaijin interesting to me was that Jennifer’s view of Japan and Japanese culture were so different from my own experiences of them.

  15. Carolyn jewel
    May 15, 2012 @ 00:58:16

    I was hoping to comment here earlier. I read Gaijin and then a lot of the author’s other work. I loved the writing and got that thrill you get when you know a writer is gifted, which is why I went looking for more of her work. That said, to me Gaijin felt unfinished. There were threads I thought would be pulled through and weren’t. And it’s still some of the best work I’ve read in some time.

    And now that I’ve said that I’ll say I think it would be a shame to miss out on this writer’s work because one day we’ll all be sitting around talking about her in the same breath as Nin.

  16. Keziah Hill
    May 15, 2012 @ 01:53:12

    Remittance Girl is one of the best erotica writers writing today. Her website has many wonderful stories and her blog posts on writing are must reads.

  17. Kaetrin
    May 15, 2012 @ 02:54:12

    I can’t see myself picking this one up. It’s just not my thing. While rape per se won’t stop me from reading a book, as this isn’t a romance I’ll pass. But, thx for the review Janine – I appreciate the time and effort you took in writing it.

  18. Jeannie Lin
    May 15, 2012 @ 05:56:33

    I picked up this one after reading the review, which in itself was very well-written. Thank you Janine. I don’t comment often, but I so want to talk about this story after reading it.

    This is the sort of erotica I love. Deeply psychological and complex and not so easy to swallow. I want to be shaken up by good erotica and erotic romance. I want to be disturbed and a little afraid of what type and depth of emotion sex can evoke. (I just finished Broken, by Megan Hart, so I’ve been in an erotica mood) The story also has the tragic and fatalistic undertones of a lot of Japanese fiction I’ve read, so the setting felt appropriate for the presentation of culture shock and lent itself thematically to the story. As to the unfinished feeling, I felt that was a deliberate decision and matched the rest of the story. Not all short stories are meant to close things up nicely in a tiny package. They’re meant to keep you thinking and this one doesn’t let you go — as the review pointed out.

    Readers of romance – no, this isn’t a romance. But I’d read this for a study on how tiny touches can “redeem” an anti-hero. I use redeem very loosely – in this case he’s not a hero to ride off into the sunset with, but is an extremely compelling character and depicted in a way that you understand the protagonist’s reaction to him.

    I had the same feeling I did when first discovering Bettie Sharpe. This author took me places where other authors don’t go and won’t go and does it beautifully well.
    I’ll definitely be re-reading this story and will also grab up her other work.

  19. Dabney
    May 15, 2012 @ 09:11:43

    I read it last night and am still thinking about it. I guess it’s erotica because there’s sex in it but to me it was really a story about perspective. I just sent my son to Hong Kong to stay with my brother for a while because I so want him to see something other than just the Western perspective. I enjoyed the story–I was intrigued by the flatness of Jennifer’s emotions. I’m still thinking about them. Are they contextual or is that her?

  20. HelenB
    May 15, 2012 @ 10:32:32

    Surely there are other ways of writing about a clash of cultures than rape. As a UK reader this is far to close to the murders of real british women as detailed above. One was the victim of a seriel rapist who targeted japanese women as well, the most recent was the conviction of a young man who raped and murdered a young woman who was giving him english lessons. He left her body in a bath full of sand on his balcony. He went on the run and even had plastic surgery to try and evade capture but in both cases there was an underlying feeling that the men did not see the women as human. They were interested only in their own gratification. Nothing erotic there. Remittance Girl obviously does not read international news stories.

  21. Jen
    May 15, 2012 @ 10:44:39

    Janine, thank you for the requested spoiler.

    And thank you Janine and Remittance Girl for the additional perspective and discussion about this concept and what’s being explored here. I, like others, was/am disturbed by how closely this scenario parallels real events that take place – not only the rapes/murders in Japan that others mentioned, but also sex slavery and kidnapping in general. I also recently read Jaycee Dugard’s memoir, and this just seems too real and too tragic for me to think about it from an erotic perspective.

    That said… Remittance Girl, you said, “I wrote Gaijin as an erotic story because I’m an erotic fiction writer. That’s the lens through which I tell all my stories;” and I can understand that.

    While this will never be a book for me, I really appreciate the discussion, and the perspective you’ve all offered.

  22. Dabney
    May 15, 2012 @ 10:46:53

    @HelenB: I feel your sorrow for what happen to the young women from Britain.

    That said, this story is fiction and is written not to glorify such acts but for the purpose of writing a story that offers a perspective and a plot that is firmly detached from the international news because it’s fiction.

    Fiction, even fiction about awful things–rape, murder, child abuse, torture–all functions outside the realm of reality. Every reader can choose what to read and can learn and even be bettered by their encounter with life’s many horrors when viewed through the lens of a story.

  23. Jen
    May 15, 2012 @ 10:49:58

    @Jen: OOPS!!! Sorry! I just spoiled it in my comment, I am so sorry!!!! I wish I could go back and edit it, I’m really sorry. Maybe someone could go in and delete my spoiler, if you can/want to.

  24. Dabney
    May 15, 2012 @ 10:56:15

    @Jen: Done.

  25. Violetta Vane
    May 15, 2012 @ 11:06:42

    Like I said, I don’t plan on reading this book, but I don’t find its existence offensive. Interesting and disturbing, but not offensive.

    Memoirs of a Geisha, on the other hand—its status as a rape narrative, its popularity— does personally offend me, and I’ve never read it either. So I kind of sympathize with the people who are freaked out about the… well, existences. These stories have a right to be told. People have a right to be upset about them, as well. Although framing the discussion about “rights” maybe isn’t the best way to go about it, I can’t think of another way at the moment.

  26. Jeannie Lin
    May 15, 2012 @ 11:37:45

    @Dabney – I took the flatness as contextual considering she was trying to survive a very traumatic situation

    I also sympathize with the other commenters who find that this tale is too close to stories of rape and kidnappings of foreigners. I have a personal trigger when it comes to captivity stories because so many girls in Southeast Asia are forced into prostitution. At the same time, I do like captivity stories in romance because of the power dynamic and struggle it creates — usually with the heroine somehow turning the tables on her captor and freeing herself. The fantasy there is that her captor falls madly in love with her, thus becoming the captive? But that’s neither here nor there in this case as Gaijin is not a romance. I don’t feel the author was insensitive for writing about this setting and topic – and this is just my thoughts, I do know this is a very tough subject matter for many readers and even justifiably abhorrent – and I do appreciate authors who try to tackle difficult subjects. She’s not the first author I’ve read who explores this scenario — Jade Lee’s Tigress has several captivity stories, though perhaps the edge is blunted by the historical setting — and if anything, Gaijin doesn’t particularly romanticize the situation or the characters.

  27. Janine
    May 15, 2012 @ 11:41:37

    @Carolyn jewel, @Jeannie Lin & @Dabney: Glad you enjoyed (if that’s the right word — for me it was more a case of appreciation than enjoyment) Gaijin. I too found it a powerful story. As for the ending, I wasn’t looking for all the strings to be tied up at the end, but even so the ending felt abrupt to me. I’m not sure if I can articulate why that was the case. I have the feeling that if it had just continued a tiny bit longer, I might not have felt this way.

    @HelenB & @Jen: I hadn’t heard these specific news stories but of course I’m familiar with other stories of kidnapping and slavery. That was part of why I was afraid to read Gaijin initially. But then my friend recommended it and she is someone whose opinions I trust. I took a chance and I’m glad I did.

    As mentioned before, I didn’t feel that the story glamorized, romanticized or exploited kidnapping, rape or slavery in any way. Even its erotic aspect didn’t do this IMO as survivor accounts of rape have indicated that rape victims can sometimes experience a physical response and even orgasm when raped. As the story says, it is still rape.

    Unlike @Jeannie Lin I didn’t feel that Gaijin in any way redeemed Shindo — it only humanized him, but that worked for me because it’s human beings who commit these horrific crimes. Had Shindo been a flat villain, the story would have been less real and therefore less meaningful.

    I can certainly understand why the story’s subject would offend or infuriate and why you would choose not to read it. I’m not trying to persuade you otherwise, only to share my own perspective on it.

    @Violetta Vane: I know what you mean. Many stories about the Holocaust — those that I feel make light of it — can really upset me just by their existence. Readers have a right to feelings of outrage just as writers have a right to write whatever they choose.

  28. Marumae
    May 15, 2012 @ 11:47:50

    Ahhh this story sounds intriguing as does the writing style and the author’s comment only makes me *more* interested… but I don’t think I’m quite brave enough to read it to be honest. I can and have read stories with passing rape in them but the more visceral harder it becomes to get through it. Thanks for the spoiler though. I’m exactly that kind of person too, I have to go google to see how a character turns out in such stories as these! The fact that the rapist doesn’t get a POV piqued my curiosity me and I wonder the reasoning for it. From a technical standpoint, to keep it short? To emphasize the distance the main character has with the people and culture around her? Because his POV wasn’t really needed to tell a story?

  29. Jeannie Lin
    May 15, 2012 @ 11:48:50

    @Janine – Ah, humanized! That’s the word I was searching for.

  30. Janine
    May 15, 2012 @ 12:05:47

    @Marumae: Well, again, I can’t speak for the author but as a reader, I felt that situating the whole story in Jennifer’s POV served to put the reader in her shoes and for me, experiencing her perspective alone made it crystal clear that this was not a romance and that Shindo was not being let off the hook for his actions. It also gave the story a claustrophobic feel because Jennifer was confined within walls most of the time. Shindo got to go in and out so including his POV would have lessened that effect. So IMO, Remittance Girl made the right choice.

    @Jeannie Lin: Cool.

  31. Robin/Janet
    May 15, 2012 @ 12:47:45

    I am often squeamish in regard to the use of sexual violence in fiction, so I was reluctant to read this. I’m glad I did, because I agree with Carolyn Jewel that the story had so much going for it, even though for me it never hit its potential.

    I’ve been thinking for a long time about why I feel that way, and Remittance Girl’s comments helped me understand my reaction better. I think the fact that the story is so much about the process of constructing (and destroying — which is an inherent part of the process itself) the “exotic erotic Other” makes the vehicle of abduction and rape almost too heavy-handed for me. I felt manipulated at times (that is, I felt like the story was pushing me a little too hard in certain directions it wanted me to go), always kept at a distance in a way that I think undermined some of the fundamental questions the narrative was asking. The flickers of brilliance were definitely there, but for me they did not fully cohere into a conflagration.

    In regard to the “unfinished” quality of the story, I felt that way, too, not because of the abruptness of the ending, which I actually loved (and the last line in the story is probably my favorite — so beautiful), but because IMO the hugeness of the thematic issues require an almost surgical tightness in the narrative that just isn’t there. It’s hinted at, and what’s there is wonderful and provocative and makes me want to read more of RG’s work. It’s just that right now the story reaches out in so many directions that for me it feels both unfinished and overshot. Still, I’m very glad I overcame my hesitancy and read it.

  32. Janine
    May 15, 2012 @ 13:01:57

    @Robin/Janet: Your comment articulates some issues that I think might have been there for me as well but that I didn’t consciously pick up on.

    Unlike you, I didn’t feel manipulated, but I do agree that the story reaches out in a lot of directions and (as best as I can put it) doesn’t deliver on every promise. That’s a lot of why I saw it as more of a slice of life than a full story.

    I think I probably don’t mind “overshot” stories as much as some readers do. I have a tendency to overshoot in my own writing and it comes from a feeling that I would rather read something ambitious than something that isn’t. An ambitious story frustrates me less than an unambitious one, though it can still be frustrating. I’m not sure that makes sense, but it’s the way I feel.

    I like what you said about the hugeness of the thematic issues requiring a surgical tightness in the narrative. Had it the story been more distilled and layered, it would have been even stronger. But for me it still worked the way it was, and like you, I’m glad I read it.

  33. Christine M.
    May 15, 2012 @ 13:45:46

    @HelenB: Just as FYI, I live in Canada and I read the papers every day, international and local news, business… just about everything and yet I hadn’t heard of those kidnappings/murders/rapes. I think blaming someone for not having heard of a specific piece of news that’s UK-centric is a bit of a cheapshot.

  34. Jan
    May 15, 2012 @ 21:13:25

    Great review Janine, very thoughtful. I found this novel incredibly erotic and at the same time was a little repulsed by my reaction to it. I didn’t feel manipulated exactly, by which I mean I didn’t feel like I was forced to like Shindo, or be turned on by the situation. I did feel like she was forcing me to choose a POV, though that may not be the term I’m looking for.

    I felt like it was presenting so much conflict within it that it was making me choose how I wanted to see it. It made me bring myself to the table in a very personal way, which made face how many ways I could see the story, how I was seeing the story, and how I wanted to see the story (all very different things).

    I love your comment about how Shindo was humanized but not redeemed. That kind of blew me away about the writing too, that someone did and even could do it in such a story.

    Remittance Girl’s comment about the culture clash gets a resounding YES from me. That so permeates the manga subculture I’m a part of that her writing this was a bit cathartic for me, that someone saw this and got it and described it to the point where it was like slipping on old shoes I’d once worn. That was a bit shocking to me as well, and I loved it for pointing out what I knew but hadn’t really ever said. Someone above said this kind of culture clash didn’t need to be said with rape, but really, rape is incredibly apt for the discussion of such exploitation, especially erotic rape.

    I’ve not yet read any of her other books yet though I’ve bought them all. I truly loved this one in spite the fact that it was not perfect. It is rare in what it got right so I don’t care. But I’m a little scared to see what the other books turn up in me. I’ll let you know what I think about them when I do.

  35. Remittance Girl
    May 15, 2012 @ 21:18:54

    @Marumae:
    “The fact that the rapist doesn’t get a POV piqued my curiosity me and I wonder the reasoning for it. ”

    I thought this was a question that required an answer, but it’s too long for a comment on a blog. I posted my answer here: http://remittancegirl.com/blogpost/points-of-view-gaijin-and-the-silence-of-shindo/

  36. Remittance Girl
    May 15, 2012 @ 21:36:10

    @Christine M. & @HelenB:

    Although I hadn’t specifically heard about a specific case of foreigners being raped/murdered/ etc in Japan, I assumed it happened, the way – tragically – it does everywhere. I started writing Gaijin in 2005 and finished in 2006. A full year before the crime committed against Lindsay Ann Hawker. (It’s worth remembering that most writers take a while to find a publisher – especially for a work like this).

    I was living in Vietnam at the time I wrote the story and I travel around Asia pretty extensively. All I consume is international news because my grasp of the Vietnamese language is not good enough to understand the bulk of local news broadcasts.

    But I’m not entirely sure why you feel it is illegitimate to base a story on a real event. Are all the thrillers written about terrorists bad because it actually happened? Is all the fiction of war stories bad because they’re based on historically true events? Are they insensitive? Exploitative? What about murder mysteries? Are they bad because they base their fictions on the fact that people do get murdered?

    A great many fiction writers feel that, to some extent, their work should reflect the world they live in. So, although the case of the English teacher had not happened when I wrote Gaijin, and was published the same year, I did very loosely base the story on the reality that people go to foreign places, and sometimes bad things happen to them.

  37. Janine
    May 15, 2012 @ 22:17:48

    @Jan:

    Great review Janine, very thoughtful. I found this novel incredibly erotic and at the same time was a little repulsed by my reaction to it. I didn’t feel manipulated exactly, by which I mean I didn’t feel like I was forced to like Shindo, or be turned on by the situation. I did feel like she was forcing me to choose a POV, though that may not be the term I’m looking for.

    I felt like it was presenting so much conflict within it that it was making me choose how I wanted to see it.

    Yes to all of the above, for me too. And yes please do let me know what else you think. Brie (@racblog on Twitter) told me that she loved The Waiting Room so I might try that next, after I catch up on my current reviewing commitments.

  38. Jeannie Lin | Award-winning historical romance author
    May 16, 2012 @ 10:33:26

    […] is actually a fangirl gush about a new author I’ve just discovered after reading a review on Dear Author: Gaijin by Remittance Girl. As I was putting my thoughts together, I considered starting with a warning that this […]

  39. Brie
    May 16, 2012 @ 11:17:30

    @Janine: Yes, I loved The Waiting Room. As many have said before me, I’m not sure Gaijin is for me, but I was curious about the author so I checked her backlist. TWR is an intense story with complex characters that are not particularly likeable but compelling nonetheless. It’s not a romance but I found the ending fitting and even hopeful (though I’m a romance reader so I tend to see happy endings even where there’s none). And if you visit the author’s website she has many free shorts as well, so you can try them first and see how like her style.

  40. Christine Rimmer
    May 16, 2012 @ 11:50:44

    Wonderful, intriguing review, Janine. I bought Gaijin yesterday after I couldn’t get your review out of my mind. Now I can’t get Gaijin out of my mind. I really did think, as has been said, that it was a “human story.” I had great sympathy for both Jennifer and Shindo. And the vividness of the writing, the richness and the detail within the complete simplicity of the work was very special. I will be reading more by Remittance Girl.

  41. Janine
    May 16, 2012 @ 16:58:17

    @Brie: Thanks for letting me know you enjoyed The Waiting Room. I read the review on your blog and it made me interested in reading it.

    @Christine Rimmer: Thanks! I agree about the vividness of the writing and the richness of detail. We’ve discussed the content more than the prose here but for me, the language was what made it possible to keep reading. It’s hard to explain why, but the beauty of the words made a harsh story feel gentler and more bearable, though no less devastating.

  42. Christine Rimmer
    May 16, 2012 @ 19:06:14

    @Janine: Yes! I cried at the end. And also during the second scene on the balcony. I have bought The Waiting Room. Making myself wait to read it until I finish the book I was reading BEFORE I bought Gaijin. Sometimes a voice can just…reach out and grab you. Remittance Girl has that gift.

  43. Selene
    May 17, 2012 @ 14:11:50

    I too really loved this story, but then I’m a sucker for culture clash-type books, and especially ones that have such nuanced characterizations, avoiding the stereotypes and cliches. Reading this story reminds me how rarely–if ever?–I’ve read any romance or erotica placed in Japan, or even, for that matter, eastern Asia. Anyone have any recommendations?

  44. Remittance Girl
    May 17, 2012 @ 21:32:21

    @Selene:

    Lisbet Sarai has written a number of stories and at least one novel set in Thailand. Raw Silk is very hot.

    Jeannie Lin has a romance novel set in Tang Dynasty China coming out. I have it on pre-order.

    There’s a ‘Best of Asian Erotica’ anthology, which features a number of incredible writers in the region, including John Burdett (who also writes wonderful detective thrillers set in Bangkok), Jonathan Lim, Hari Kumar and Yusuf Martin

  45. Mirole
    May 18, 2012 @ 21:58:34

    Christine Rimmer: you expressed so beautifully what I feel about Remittance Girl’s writing.

    Janine: thanks again for writing this review and giving the author much deserved exposure.

    Remittance Girl: is there any chance you are going to write something longer than your usual format? If not a novel but maybe a longer novella or a short novel? For me the writing is paramount and I would loooove to read something longer and with more developed plot written by you.

  46. Reading List of What Dabney read in April and May
    Jun 11, 2012 @ 10:02:41

    […] Janine’s review, I felt compelled to read this. I’m glad I did. I found it compelling. I didn’t exactly […]

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