Posts Tagged ‘middle grade’

Talking about Temple Alley Summer

By Deborah Iwabuchi, Maebashi, Japan

Avery Fischer Udagawa is the translator of a middle grade novel just out from Yonder, an imprint of Restless Books. Temple Alley Summer was written by Sachiko Kashiwaba, a well-known author in Japan. Her book The Mysterious Village Veiled in Mist influenced the Studio Ghibli movie Spirited Away.

Today, I’m talking with Avery about her work on Temple Alley Summer (TAS). In the past months, I’ve had the opportunity to do a few of these interviews. Each one brings new discoveries, and I’m enjoying it so much that I’m about ready to give up doing translation altogether and just READ translated books so I can talk to the translators about them.

TAS was thoroughly engrossing, and I sailed through the 200-plus pages. There’s no way a brief synopsis without spoilers can do it justice, but let me give it a try. What begins as a story about modern Japanese schoolchildren moves quickly into an old neighborhood legend and a mysterious statuette that can bring people back from the dead. Fifth-grade Kazu witnesses such an event and becomes privy to the truth behind Akari, a girl who suddenly appears in his class. If Akari’s story were not enough, Kazu and Akari end up in pursuit of another, older and darker fantasy, an unfinished story in a magazine that Akari read in her first life, and which Kazu is determined to find the conclusion to. The reader gets to read the story along with Kazu, and is left hanging as he searches for its author. This story within a story keeps the reader glued to the page until the very end. What happens to Akari? And what about Adi in the other story? Rest assured, all the puzzles are solved, but that’s all you’re going to get from me!

Sachiko Kashiwaba, author of Temple Alley Summer

Deborah: Avery, you were interviewed a year ago about another story by Sachiko Kashiwaba that you translated, “Firstclaw,” online at Words Without Borders. In the interview, you also talked about your impressions of TAS, so I encourage blog readers to visit that posting too.

You describe TAS as “a middle grade novel that showcases Kashiwaba’s gift for writing fairy tales, Japan-inspired fantasy, and contemporary realism, all in 52,000 engrossing words.” Can you tell me how you came to meet Kashiwaba and translate this book?

Avery: I met Sachiko Kashiwaba through translating another of her works for Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction: An Anthology of Japan Teen Stories. The opportunity to translate for Tomo and the introduction to Kashiwaba both grew out of involvement in SCBWI Japan (then called SCBWI Tokyo) and its network, and the impetus to translate TAS came from a competition connected with the Asian Festival of Children’s Content 2016. I asked the author’s permission to submit a translation of TAS to the competition and then, later, to English-language publishers.

Avery Fischer Udagawa, translator of Temple Alley Summer

Deborah: I’d like to look at the different layers of the story. The story begins with Kazu, his family, and a day at his typical Japanese school. I imagine the author wanting to bring her Japanese readers in close with a familiar setting before leading them into the supernatural. I find it difficult to translate beginnings of books that involve Japanese school life. To me, it’s always the most difficult part of a translation. The aspects of Japanese society familiar to people living here are the parts that I as a translator have difficulty explaining for non-Japan-based readers in a way that doesn’t get in the way of the original.

In this case, too, there was a certain amount of school and household terminology to get through to discover the old town map with the name Kimyō Temple—an essential plot element. After that, the story takes off. The cast of characters from Kimyō Temple Alley and the somewhat eccentric former resident, together with Kashiwaba’s fantasy, are all described—and of course translated—thoroughly and engagingly. Every time I thought I had the plot figured out, it took a step in a different direction. Any comments on parts of the translation you found more challenging, and parts that were more fun to do?

Avery: Thank you for your kind words about the translation! The opening was indeed a challenge, due to the setting’s many Japan-specific features. Young readers of English cannot be expected to know that class sections in every grade at Japanese school are numbered, or that these sections routinely subdivide into numbered small groups, or that students will remove their street shoes at school and wear indoor shoes, which they may take home during vacations. The early chapters contain many references to such details, which I needed to try to include without stopping the story to explain. It comforts me that you, too, have struggled with this! I would love to see enough Japan school stories become known in English that a bit of background knowledge can be assumed.

Another challenge, which actually arose after translating, has been conveying that religious practices and objects play a role in TAS yet do not make the story religious—just as religious activities are part of life for many people in Japan who are otherwise secular. Everyone in a community might turn up for a festival at a temple to the bodhisattva Kannon, yet not venerate Kannon otherwise. A small statuette of the Buddha might be experienced as simply a household object. A family altar, more than being a site of worship, might imply something closer to missing departed relatives.

Explaining the role of religion in Japan is hard even for scholars and for Japanese themselves. I have tried to convey that TAS unfolds in a culture that has many religious influences, which nonetheless is often nonreligious. And TAS is not a religious novel, any more than The Letter for the King and The Secrets of the Wild Wood by Tonke Dragt, translated by Laura Watkinson, are religious due to including a chapel, a monastery, a knight saying a prayer, and so on.

Deborah: This is an excellent point. As someone who has been in Japan for decades, I tend to forget about the flexibility of Japanese society when it comes to religion and how unusual it can seem.

Avery: As for especially fun parts of TAS to translate, I relished working with dialogue and narrative voice to bring out the relationships between characters. The love/hate connection between fifth-grade Kazu and his 83-year-old neighbor Ms. Minakami was fascinating to translate, because rough equivalents of their words rarely served anything like the same function in English. For example, in a spot where Kazu harps on Ms. Minakami to do something, she says urusai! to him. I could hardly render this literally as “(You’re) noisy!” because the issue is Kazu’s nagging, not his loudness. Nor could I express urusai! with the commonly used but overly blunt “Shut up!” I needed to fashion some English that preserved the level of respect a child and an elder in the same tight-knit neighborhood would show to each other, even when fighting mad. And they really do get fighting mad!

Deborah: So how did it work out in the end? What did they say to each other in English?

Avery: “Kazu. You’re driving me crazy,” she said on the phone. (かずくん、うるさい!)

“Crazy is as crazy does…” [Kazu] replied. (自業自得ってやつです。)

Deborah: Well done! Both the difficult-to-translate urusai (drive me crazy) and jigō-jitoku (crazy is as crazy does) with one fell swoop.

Avery: The embedded tale within TAS, “The Moon Is On the Left,” also offered many interesting passages to translate, including a dramatic scene with rockfalls, flames, volleys of arrows, and lightning bolts indoors! My daily life doesn’t afford many chances to say rockfalls.

Deborah: One thing I liked about TAS was the fact that it WASN’T written in five volumes—when it very well could have been. On the other hand, there are a few aspects that I’m left wondering about and that I wouldn’t mind visiting in a sequel. What happened to the Kimyō Temple statuette? Did Akari’s first-life mother ever find out she came back to life? Are there any aspects you wanted to know more about, and has Kashiwaba written any other books to follow?

Deborah Iwabuchi and Avery Fischer Udagawa

Avery: Sachiko Kashiwaba has not published a sequel to TAS; I, like you, would certainly love to read more, especially about Akari’s former mother Ms. Ando. At the same time, I appreciate that certain things remain a mystery, and I too like that the book stands alone.

Kashiwaba has gone on to publish a number of other works, including the young adult/adult novel Misaki no mayoiga (The Abandoned House by the Cape), which takes place during and after the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011. This book has recently been made into a play, and it is also the basis of an anime movie to be released in Japan in August 2021.

Kashiwaba’s other recent works include several fantasy novels, an adaptation of the beloved Tōno monogatari folk legends, and volumes in her long-running Monster Hotel series—rollicking early readers that bring together yokai and western-style monsters.

People interested in her earlier works can check out the film Spirited Away, influenced by her debut novel The Marvelous Village Veiled in Mist; and the film The Wonderland, based on another early book. We also have a blog post here at Ihatov with excerpts from a workshop that drew on her 2010 novel Tsuzuki no toshokan (The “What’s-Next” Library).

Deborah: The titles alone are fascinating! Thanks for sharing this book and your experiences with it, Avery. I hope we’ll be seeing more of Kashiwaba in translation before too long. Meanwhile, I’m heading out to look for rockfalls.

Two Books from Japan Make Inaugural GLLI Translated YA Book Prize Shortlist

By Andrew Wong, Tokyo

Two works from Japan have made the shortlist for the inaugural Global Literature in Libraries Initiative (GLLI) Translated YA Book Prize for 2019.

Ginny Tapley Takemori’s translation of The Secret of the Blue Glass, written by Tomiko Inui, is joined by Anne Ishii’s translation of the first two volumes of My Brother’s Husband, Gengoroh Tagame’s Eisner-clinching four-volume manga series, in the 10-title shortlist.

These two titles happen to share something else in common: families with visitors!

The judges considered books first published in English translation between 2015 and 2018. The full shortlist features translations from Bengali, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Spanish, and Swedish.

Look out for the winner soon!

“Festival Time” in The Best Asian Short Stories 2018

By Malavika Nataraj, Singapore
 
It’s hard to believe that January 2019 is almost over, but the month wouldn’t be complete without some exciting news to share! Avery Fischer Udagawa’s translation of the short story “Festival Time,” a tale for middle grade readers and up by Yamagata-born author Ippei Mogami, illustrated by Saburo Takada, has been featured in The Best Asian Short Stories of 2018 anthology, published by Kitaab of Singapore.
 
“Festival Time” takes place in young Masashi’s village, where plans for a spring festival are derailed because of seasonal labour migration, as farmers go to cities in search of more lucrative work. In a write-up that appeared in the Japan Times earlier this month, Udagawa said that she appreciated how Mogami told the story through a child’s eyes, and how the author handled the boy’s relationship with both his grandmother, who has dementia, and an elder with “crying palsy.”
 
Read more on “Festival Time” at Words and Pictures, the online magazine of SCBWI British Isles.

SCBWI Japan Translation Day 2018 in Yokohama

By Emily Balistrieri, Tokyo

SCBWI Japan held Translation Day 2018 on October 20 in Yokohama. The fifth in this biennial series of single-day conferences for translators and translation-lovers alike had a fantastic line-up of speakers with both inspiring and practical wisdom to share.

Kicking off the day was a pre-recorded Skype interview with Takami Nieda whose translation of Go by Kazuki Kaneshiro was published by AmazonCrossing this past March. Go is a great example of a book that while not particularly marketed for teenagers in Japan fits perfectly in the YA category in English. Nieda discussed that as well as how nice it was to work with AmazonCrossing. People unsure about Amazon as a publisher might be interested to know that she found the editors friendly and the editing process rigorous.

For aspiring translators, Nieda recommended attending a short translation program, such as the British Centre for Literary Translation summer school or the Breadloaf Translators’ Conference, and pairing with another translator for peer editing. It also sounded like she would recommend having a day job because it allows you to pick and choose your projects more.

After the participants in the day got to know each other a bit and receive some SCBWI, SWET and submission news, the second session began. In another pre-recorded Skype interview, publisher and managing director of Pushkin Press Adam Freudenheim talked about publishing translations in the UK. People often observe a lack of demand for translations, but he said the key is finding your market. Pushkin’s (and Penguin Random House’s) series of six novellas translated from Japanese—including Ms. Ice Sandwich by Mieko Kawakami, which was a centerpiece of this event—has been doing great. Sometimes finding your audience can be tricky, though: Freudenheim shared that the collection of Akiyuki Nosaka stories translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori originally published for children as The Whale that Fell in Love with a Submarine has been doing much better repackaged and expanded for adults as The Cake Tree in the Ruins.

In response to questions about the nuts and bolts of publishing translations, Freudenheim said that it’s easier to publish longer translations or otherwise take risks when there are subsidies or grants available, often from source countries’ governments. If translations can be co-funded by American and UK publishers, that also helps. He noted that it’s possible to be successful approaching Pushkin cold and emphasized sharing your passion for the book when pitching in addition to the whats and the whys.

Before lunch Louise Heal Kawai, translation of Ms. Ice Sandwich among many other books, spoke on the importance of networking, which is how she ended up on that project. She also shared how she localized Mieko Kawakami’s punny nickname for a girl whose fart smells like tea! (Let’s just say that’s what you get when the book’s protagonist is a boy in fourth grade.)

After a sunny lunch break, during which participants could practice her networking advice, Kawai led a translation workshop on an excerpt from the sequel to Ms. Ice Sandwich, Ichigo jamu kara ichigo o hikeba (which can be variously translated as If You Take the Strawberries Out of Strawberry Jam or Strawberry Jam Minus the Strawberries, among other ways) from the volume Akogare (Longing, or Longings or Yearning). Although there were plenty of challenges regarding the Japanese, including the name of a candy bar that was actually fictitious and finding the correct tense, the main exercise turned out to be writing in voice for a sixth-grade girl. Words like “adept,” “disgusted,” and “smitten” were frowned upon, while choices like “super popular,” “stuff like that,” and the exchange “No way,”-“Yes way,” got the nod.

One of the challenges in translating books from Japan, especially for young people, is packaging them for English-language book categories. Author and SCBWI Japan Co-Regional Advisor Holly Thompson led a session explaining some of the most common definitions of middle-grade and young-adult fiction, which can seem strict but do offer room for crossover success. Participants broke into groups for an exercise in classifying novels as MG or YA based on the opening pages. Drugs and sex references were the most obvious markers of YA besides older protagonists, while MG books seemed immediately to contain more family references and simpler vocabulary.

In the last session, Thompson was joined by Japanese Board on Books for Young People president (not to mention prolific translator) Yumiko Sakuma and SCBWI Japan Translator Coordinator Avery Fischer Udagawa in a discussion about Japanese book categories vs. US/UK book categories.

In Japan, the consideration is less about age-appropriate vocabulary than age-appropriate kanji. Then, even if a child is the protagonist, you can simply decide as a marketing strategy that it’s a book for adults if you want adults to read it, too, as happened in the case of Tonneru no Mori 1945 (The Tunnel of Trees 1945) by Eiko Kadono, winner of the 2018 Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing. Sakuma also explained that to some extent there’s a belief that it’s better not to set ages for books because kids all read at their own pace. Given what people throughout the day noted appears to be a more fluid mindset about especially protagonist age in Japan, it can be a challenge to make English categories fit.

After this nine-to-five Saturday of kidlit translation immersion, surely even the most exhausted of the participants were feeling inspired to get going on some new projects.

 

 

Global Literature in Libraries Initiative Features Japan, Including Children’s and YA Literature

By Andrew Wong, Tokyo

Looking for a strong dose of commentary on Japanese literary works online? Try the special Japan-in-Translation series at the Global Literature in Libraries Initiative (published throughout May 2018). Organized by David Jacobson, this series offered an entire month of blog posts spanning poetry and prose, manga, light novels, chapter books, picture books, fun with kanji, and onomatopoeia, plus reflections on publishing and reading translated works. Several members of SCBWI Japan contributed.

Here is the full list of posts in the series, including many on children’s literature:

Japan Kidlit for Women in Translation Month

August is Women in Translation Month! Here are Japan kidlit titles (picture book through Young Adult) by #womenintranslation that have appeared on this blog so far. Click to read more!

The Nurse and the Baker by Mika Ichii, translated by Hart Larrabee

Little Keys and the Red Piano by Hideko Ogawa, translated by Kazuko Enda and Deborah Iwabuchi

The Bear and the Wildcat by Kazumi Yumoto, illustrated by Komako Sakai, translated by Cathy Hirano

Are You An Echo? The Lost of Poems of Misuzu Kaneko by David Jacobson, illustrated by Toshikado Hajiri, translated by Sally Ito and Michiko Tsuboi

Totto-chan by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, translated by Dorothy Britton

The Secret of the Blue Glass by Tomiko Inui, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori

Brave Story written by Miyuki Miyabe, translated by Alexander O. Smith

 

TOMO with stories by Naoko Awa, Yukie Chiri, Megumi Fujino, Sachiko Kashiwaba, Arie Nashiya, Yuko Katakawa, and Fumio Takano; translated by Toshiya Kamei, Deborah Davidson, Lynne E. Riggs, Avery Fischer Udagawa, Juliet Winters Carpenter, Deborah Iwabuchi, and Hart Larrabee

Dragon Sword and Wind Child by Noriko Ogiwara, translated by Cathy Hirano

Mirror Sword and Shadow Prince by Noriko Ogiwara, translated by Cathy Hirano

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit by Nahoko Uehashi, translated by Cathy Hirano

Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness by Nahoko Uehashi, translated by Cathy Hirano

A True Novel by Minae Mizumura, translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter

Confessions by Kanae Minato, translated by Stephen Snyder