A great writer is far better than a rock star (sorry Bon Jovi, I still love you). So I'm blown away when a fabulous writer not only accepts my friend request on facebook, but also returns an email, or answers a question or two, and points me in the right direction with my work. These writers are night lights helping me stumble along, illuminating a very dark hallway known as the publishing world.
Suzanne Kamata is a night light author for me. I'm a huge fan of two anthologies Suzanne edited. In fact, I keep both next to my bed.
Love You to Pieces: Creative Writers on Raising a Child with Special Needs
Call Me Okaasan: Adventures in Multicultural Mothering
Suzanne is a Michigander, living as an expat in Japan. She has a child with special needs and she's a writer! Our similarities make me a bit giddy. So when I heard she was looking for reviewers for her new book, I thrust my electronic hand up in the air.
It is my privilege to review The Beautiful One Has Come, Stories by Suzanne Kamata on Pocket Lint.
After reading the first story in the collection, I started to tweak my daily schedule to secure an earlier bed time. I couldn't wait to score a few blissfully quiet moments to jump into another story in "The Beautiful One Has Come." Suzanne is a gifted writer. Story after story confirmed the universality of real life, braided effortlessly with continents and struggles and humanity.
I lost my breath as I was eerily whisked back to Polly's birth while reading "Polishing The Halo," a story about an American mother coming to terms with her baby's disability while living as an expatriate in Japan.
Here's an excerpt:
Trina was wrapping up one of her hilarious tales about trying to find underwear in her size in Japan. Their laughter drowned out the Japanese pop music coming from the
speakers. When things had settled down, Trina leaned over toward Ana and clucked her tongue.
"Aren’t you the sweetest little baby?” she said in a high voice.
“She can’t hear you,” Kelly blurted out. “We had her tested. She’s deaf.”
The smiles died. Eyes dropped to laps.
Elizabeth was the first to recover. Oh, honey,” she said, laying her hand on top of Kelly’s. “Please. If there’s anything we can do to help, let us know.”
Kelly bit her lip, determined not to cry, and nodded.
“Things could have been so much worse,” Lisa added. “She’s perfectly healthy in every other way. She’ll be fine.”
“She can still be Miss America,” Trina chimed in. “Or an actress like that woman who won an Academy Award.”
“Sure,” Elizabeth said.”She can do anything. I heard there’s a deaf guy playing Major League baseball.”
I appreciated the gentle camaraderie between a straight, American woman and a gay, Hawaiian dance teacher in "Hawaiian Hips." And I loved "Woman Blossoming," a story about a young painter who seems to place her art behind her marriage to help her husband achieve greatness. She holds her talent close, though, and that one act of not losing herself proves to be all the fulfillment and provision one could ask for in life.
I am not much of a critic. The way I measure a good story is how much of myself gets lost and found in words. I can only get lost in words when the writing doesn't get in the way. I can only be found in writing when the story points to something in me that connects to another person.
If you were to ask me what constitutes a good story, my answer would be staying power. If I find myself thinking about a story days afterward, it is good.
Many of these stories still roll around in my mind.
Buy a copy of "The Beautiful One Has Come" here.
Here is Suzanne's biography from her website:
Suzanne Kamata was born and raised in Grand Haven, Michigan. She is most recently from Lexington, South Carolina, and now lives in Tokushima Prefecture, Japan with her husband and two children. Her short stories, essays, articles and book reviews have appeared in over 100 publications including New York Stories, Calyx, Crab Orchard Review, Pleiades, Kyoto Journal, The Utne Reader, The Japan Times, Brain, Child, Skirt!, Ladybug and Cicada. Her work also appears in the anthologies Yaponesia, The Beacon Best of 1999, It's a Boy, It's a Girl, Literary Mama: Reading for the Maternally Inclined, Not What I Expected and Summer Shorts. Formerly fiction editor of Being A Broad, a magazine for foreign women living in Japan, she now serves as fiction editor for the popular e-zine Literary Mama, and edits and publishes the literary magazine Yomimono. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize five times, and received a special mention in 2006. She is also a two-time winner of the All Nippon Airways/Wingspan Fiction Contest.