INTO THE NEXT STAGE: Genie Nakano Goes Beyond the Lines with Coloring Book for Grownups

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By GEORGE TOSHIO JOHNSTON

As a parent, I observed my children evolve from liking coloring books to having no interest at all.

At the family-friendly restaurants we still occasionally frequent, where in years past the staff would dutifully issue a four-pack of crayons and a kids’ menu that included black-and-white line drawings that required coloring, the employees take one look at my now-older kids and don’t even bother offering.

It’s a part of growing up.

But if what I’ve read in news reports in recent months holds true, maybe in a couple of decades they’ll be ready to do coloring books again.

Yes, coloring books for adults has “become a thing.” For some, it appears to be a stress reliever or a leisure activity, and for others, an apparent analog antidote to the swipe, press and delete doldrums of our daily digital doings.

I can’t comment directly on this, as I’m not among that group of adults for which coloring books is an activity — although I kind of wish I had the free time to indulge!

But if you’re interested in revisiting your childhood pastime with color pencils or markers instead of crayons — and you are a poetry lover — you need to get yourself a copy of “Colorful Lives: A Coloring/Tanka Poetry Book,” by Genie Nakano with illustrations by Alvin Takamori.

If you’re a Rafu Shimpo reader and the name Genie Nakano sounds familiar, that’s because she is the poet and author behind the “Genie’s Lamp” feature, which appears in the paper. A Sansei, she is also the author of “Storyteller” (with Amelia Fielden), “enter the stream” (with Deborah P. Kolodji) and “Gentle Yoga.” She also has a master’s degree in dance from UCLA.

Three years in the making, “Colorful Lives” (ISBN 0990895319, SRP $12.95) was just published in December by Seattle’s Chin Music Press. The book contains more than 20 of Nakano’s tanka poems on the right-hand page and on the left-hand page, either an illustration by Takamori or a black-and-white photo related to the poem’s topic.

Nakano said she met Takamori at the Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute, where she teaches tanka and yoga.

“Alvin is the graphic artist there. He does all the calendars and puts together all the important flyers, like if we’re having Day of Remembrance,” Nakano said. “He takes care of all the displays in the Japanese library every month. He puts a lot of care into everything. I noticed his work, and I asked him, ‘Do you want to do a book with me?’

“His wife [Debbie Mochidome] is in charge of the book club there and whenever I’ve given a book event, she’d always be the presenter, so she’s always been encouraging me.”

One thing led to another, and voila, instant book, right? Well, not quite.

When asked how she was inspired to produce a coloring book for grownups, Nakano said she saw coloring books in France while on a pilgrimage to Bruyeres, a town famously liberated by the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during WWII. She thought they were beautiful and was inspired to make a coloring book with her tanka poetry.

Genie Nakano and husband Hideki Obayashi

“I thought that by combining the two, I could bring in more senses,” Nakano said. “The book is sort of meditative, so I felt it would be perfect. You look at a poem, you calm down and then you start coloring. It just seemed to really go hand in hand.”

Although Takamori’s detailed drawings are a big part of the book, so too are the photos that accompany some of the tanka poems. (Many of the photographs were shot by either Nakano or Takamori, too.) Those photos also can be colored, Nakano noted. But looking at Takamori’s illustrations, one can imagine that once colored, depending on the colors used and how skilled at coloring one is, the effect could be like a psychedelic mandala.

But are coloring books for adults a fading fad? According to a news report, sales of coloring books aimed at adults did decline this past holiday season. But if you want to revisit those halcyon days of childhood when whiling away the hours on a coloring book left you with a feeling of accomplishment, go ahead and order a copy of “Colorful Lives: A Coloring/Tanka Poetry Book.” Your best best would be to do it via ChinMusicPress.com. It’s also available via Amazon.com, if you so desire.

Poetry. Dance. Photography. Yoga. Meditation. Books. Seems like Nakano does it all. “I’m the kind of person who doesn’t really stay in between the lines,” Nakano said. How appropriate!

Harvey So Sorry (Again) Dept.: In an example of how social media in the Internet age completely beats print media (like this), the story of TV personality and comedian Steve Harvey has mostly completed the typical life cycle of offense, backlash and apology as you read this. But since not all Rafu Shimpo readers use social media, here’s the rundown.

Last week on his syndicated daytime show, during a bit about silly books, the co-star of “The Original Kings of Comedy” brought up a book (yes, sadly, it’s a real book from 2002) titled “How to Date a White Woman: A Practical Guide for Asian Men” by Adam Quon.

Harvey started to riff on the topic but rather than joke about the book itself, he cracked himself up with lines like: “Excuse me — do you like Asian men? No. Thank you!” Then he came up with the imaginary book titled “How to Date Black Women: A Practical Guide for Asian Men.”

“Same thing,” Harvey said, responding as an imaginary black woman. “I don’t even like Chinese food, boy. It don’t stay with you no time. I don’t eat what I can’t pronounce.” He then staggered about the stage, evidently tickled by the notion that a human female of any variety might find an Asian man attractive. That is just cray-cray, right?

In the instantaneous world of social media, the backlash was fast and furious. After taking a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump, Harvey managed to issue a non-apology apology: “I offer my humblest apology for offending anyone, particularly those in the Asian community, last week. It was not my intention and the humor was not meant with any malice or disrespect whatsoever.”

Harvey, of course, made headlines last year when he infamously and incorrectly named Miss Colombia the winner of the Miss Universe contest, then apologetically and awkwardly backtrack and give it to the actual winner, Miss Philippines.

I kinda felt bad for him back then. Now, after this incident, I realize he’s not very funny and he’s not very bright, either. Yet he has a daytime show, and hosts the syndicated “Family Feud” and network show “Little Big Shots,” so he must be doing something right.

For a number of reasons, Harvey won’t suffer much from this latest faux pas, which might have had serious career repercussions for someone else in similar circumstances. Former TV personality Billy Bush’s career is toast now for laughing at Trump’s infamous off-camera comments about the merits of grabbing a woman by her, uh, privates, and not expressing his outrage (real or not) in that moment.

Meantime, Harvey got a second chance with the Miss Universe pageant, despite his mistake — he’s been tapped to host again. It takes place in the Philippines.

If there are any Rafu Shimpo readers in Manila, can we get a solid and have someone drop a steaming bowl pancit noodles on his dome? Steve Harvey might not be funny, but slapstick always gets a laugh.

Until next time, keep your eyes and ears open.

George Toshio Johnston has written this column since 1992 and can be reached at [email protected] The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect policies of this newspaper or any organization or business. Copyright © 2017 by George T. Johnston. All rights reserved.

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