‘The Origins of JA Literature Are Queer and Mixed’


Dr. Andrew Leong

Dr. Andrew Leong

BERKELEY — Eastwind Books of Berkeley and Tadaima Bay Area present “The Origins of Japanese American Literature Are Queer and Mixed: Book Preview” with Dr. Andrew Leong with an introduction and Q&A by San Francisco State University Professor Amy Sueyoshi.

The event takes place Sunday, Oct. 9, from 3 to 5 p.m. at Eastwind Books, 2066 University Ave. in Berkeley.

Leong’s next book, “Origins,” argues that the Issei/Nisei framework for understanding Japanese American history fails to account for queer and mixed-race historical experiences and desires that are at the heart of early Japanese- and English-language literature. “Origins” recovers and re-reads literary works by writers who do not quite fit the narrative of Issei-to-Nisei succession, including Nagahara Shōson, poet Sadakichi Hartmann (1944), and authors Yoné Noguchi (1947) and Arishima Takeo (1923).

“Lament in the Night,” translated for the first time by Leong, collects two remarkable novellas by Nagahara. The title novella, originally published in 1925, follows itinerant day laborer Ishikawa Sazuko as he prowls the back alleys and bathhouses of Los Angeles, looking for a meal, a job or just someone to hold on to. The second novella follows a young mother working her way through bars and nightclubs after being abandoned by her gambling-addicted husband.

Written in a deadpan tone that is both evocative and precise, this dazzling exercise in 1920s naturalist noir promises to become a classic of American literature.

This first-ever English-language publication of “Lament in the Night” opens up a whole realm of American literature that has been woefully underpublished and unexplored —namely, the literary heritage of non-English-speaking immigrants in America. Nagahara was influenced by many Western writers — especially Knut Hamsun, whose work he translated into Japanese — and his novels combine the gritty sensibility of Los Angeles noir with elements of Japanese traditional storytelling and epistolary techniques.

“Lament in the Night” will be available for purchase at the event.

Leong is assistant professor of English and Japanese literature at Northwestern University.

Sueyoshi is the author of “Queer Compulsions: Race, Nation, and Sexuality in the Affairs of Yone Noguchi” (2012). She has a second book manuscript titled “Sex Acts: Gender and Sexual Freedom and the Birth of American ‘Oriental,’” currently under review. She has published and lectured on a number of issues on race and sexuality such as cross-dressing, pornography, and marriage equality.

Tadaima Bay Area (Tadaima meaning “I’m home” in Japanese) is a collection of events hosted across the Bay Area for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQQ) individuals, families, and allies who want to learn more about the intersections of the Japanese American LGBTQQ experience. Visit http://tadaimabayarea.org for more information. Tickets available at www.eventbrite.com.



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