By Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok
Japanese author Kanako Nishi was born in Tehran in 1977. She grew up in Cairo and Osaka and now lives in Tokyo. Her 2014 novel Saraba! (Farewell!) won the Naoki Prize.
Earlier this year, New York-based translator Allison Markin Powell commissioned Nishi to write a response to acts of the Islamic State. In the resulting essay, Nishi recalls a moment in childhood when she, a nominal Buddhist, and a Muslim gatekeeper in Egypt exchanged the heartfelt greeting, “Merry Christmas.” Nishi learned that humans can transcend frameworks of gender, nationality, and religion.
The essay makes a good read for adults and for teens, including those in international schools or living abroad. The Japanese version—updated in mid-November after the Paris attacks—is here. Powell’s translation into English is here, at the Japanese literature website Fifty Storms.