Posts Tagged ‘young adult’

A Chat about The Cat Who Saved Books

by Andrew Wong, Tokyo, Japan

I gladly interviewed Louise Heal Kawai about The Cat Who Saved Books, her translation of a fascinating tale of a boy, a bookshop, and a cat, authored by Sosuke Natsukawa.

LouiseHealKawai

Louise Heal Kawai, translator of The Cat Who Saved Books

Andrew: Let’s start with how you came to translate The Cat Who Saved Books. Did you pitch it to a publisher?

Louise: Well I must admit that I didn’t pitch The Cat Who Saved Books. First of all, I was asked by an agent to do a sample translation in order to sell the rights. In case readers of this article are interested in those kinds of details, it was the Japanese publisher who paid me for the sample. It was quite a long one – the whole of Chapter 1 (not including the preface).

The agent kindly let me know who bought the rights, and I followed up with a couple of emails until finally they asked me to be the translator. In the past, I have had bad luck being asked to translate a book after doing a sample. In fact, woeful luck. I think this is the first time it ever worked out for me.

Andrew: That’s something I’ve heard before – being engaged for a sample translation doesn’t mean you eventually get to translate the entire work.

Louise: I have learned never to expect to be asked to do a translation after doing the sample. I do my best to follow up on contacts with publishers, if I can find out who buys the rights. I have had my heart broken many times, but I was persistent with this title and it eventually paid off.

Andrew: Persistence does pay (this time)! What did you feel reading the original? And what did you wish to convey in your translation?

Louise: I most wanted to convey the visuals that are so important in the original. My goal was to have the reader caught up in the quests as if they were there themselves. Whirling paper, booming music, falling books, the visuals were essential to capture. (I hope I was successful.)

Another important aspect of the novel is the author’s thoughts on books and reading. Rintaro, the cat, and particularly Rintaro’s grandfather all express ideas on the topic of reading which I guessed (correctly) would be quoted in numerous reviews. The original Japanese was beautifully stated so I had to be sure that I translated these phrases in a way that would appeal to the English language reader, hopefully sticking in their mind. I tried to take extra care with the wording. Again, I hope I was successful.

A word about “Books have a soul.” Of course the original Japanese was “心” (kokoro).  I felt neither mind nor heart were quite right here. I liked “soul” in this image of a reader leaving something in a book. It felt richer somehow.

Books have a soul.… 

a book that has been cherished and loved, filled with human thoughts,

has been endowed with a soul.”

Andrew: The atmospheres in both the bookshop and the labyrinths certainly drew me into the story, and that quote is an idea that I thought book readers would like to pass down to someone, like how Rintaro’s grandfather passed it on to him. When I went off to my local library, I found the Japanese original next to Natsukawa’s Kamisama no Karute series in the regular fiction section, not the YA section. It’s not uncommon to find young protagonists in novels written for adults in Japan, and it seems that he might have intended The Cat for an older audience. Did that impact your translation?

Louise: The issue of YA versus adult is interesting. Picador (UK) and HarperVia (US) were clear that they didn’t want to package it as a YA book. Both large publishers have YA imprints and it wasn’t those who had bought the rights, so perhaps the reason was as simple as that? Reviewers seem to be divided on the issue. I personally felt because of its subject matter (teens, hikikomori, friendship, adventure “quests”) that it was very YA. However I didn’t aim my language at any particular readership and just sought to translate the Japanese in the voices that I heard in it.

Andrew: As a nice segue into the voices in the book, I wanted to applaud your translation of “二代目” as “Mr. Proprietor” – it’s simply quite brilliant!

Louise: First of all – thank you. I found “二代目” (2nd generation) a challenge to translate. Obviously a direct translation wasn’t going to do it. I thought about the cat’s voice and the level of the language it used, and “Mr. Proprietor” came to me. It manages to say everything that the original does about the cat’s intentions for Rintaro, as well as being slightly sarcastic.

TheCatWhoSavedBooks

The UK edition and the original Japanese text

Andrew: The ginger cat, Tiger, who sits atop a pile of books on the English cover, along with Rintaro and Sayo are the three main voices/characters in the story. I just love Tiger’s voice. It reminds me of a certain sharp-witted lasagne-loving feline from a famous comic strip. What were your references for the style and tone of voice? What about the three men of the labyrinths – the collector of books, reader of books, and the bookseller – who were quite similar, yet unique, characters?

Louise: Well, I didn’t think of Garfield, although I know who he is. I haven’t read many of those comic strips. The thing I took most into account was the fact that (real) cats always seem a little arrogant and do exactly as they want. The voice was tough and not particularly kind in the original – telling Rintaro some uncomfortable truths. I was careful not to make it obviously British or American, so I purposely combined a little British sounding pomposity with a bit of the image of a wisecracking New Yorker from a whole slew of American sitcoms/dramas.

By the way, although I wrote in my translator’s note at the end that I had deliberately not given the cat a gender as the original never specifies, it was obvious from the language that the cat was supposed to be male. I also used that note to explain more about the phenomenon of hikikomori to readers.

About the translator’s note, I have asked many publishers if I may include one (and it’s usually declined) but this time I was offered the chance by the publisher so I jumped at it.

Andrew: The theme of hikikomori stays quietly in the background, so I certainly appreciated your note at the end of the book. Back to the story, Rintaro and his love for books and knowledge of their stories helps him debunk fundamental flaws in their reasoning, changing their relationships with books. As I read, I could not help but think of my own relationship with books. Am I done with a story after reading it once? Do I have the time and energy to read an entire book again? And what of those bestseller rankings and the talk of money and books?

Louise: I felt guilty about my own reading habits. I rarely re-read books myself and I wondered if perhaps I should. I wondered if I was the first opponent from the first labyrinth just getting through as many as possible. But the worst thing was the comments about storage of books. I would be ashamed to show my bookshelves to Rintaro for sure. So many improperly displayed books!! I think that the author’s depiction of the bookseller skewered the publishing industry rather perfectly and a little cruelly.

Andrew: And so we can imagine the bookseller in the third labyrinth rubbing his hands in glee with The Cat – it says “The International Bestseller” on the cover. Do you know how well it’s actually doing?

Louise: The UK edition might have been a little premature with that claim, but it is subsequently true. Before English I knew it had been translated into Italian, Turkish and possibly Chinese. Rights to about 30 languages were sold after Frankfurt in 2019 (including English) but since the English translation was published the number has now grown to rights sold or translations already out in 38 languages. There’s about to be a Croatian version done in relay translation from my English translation. (Andrew: Hooray!)

Andrew: And did it travel from the UK to the US? Or was it vice versa?

Louise: I was hired by the UK publisher but the US publisher was in a hurry to get their edition out before Christmas 2021 so their editor joined in when we were in the editing process. At first I was nervous that there might be too many conflicting ideas, but in the end it was great to have the double input.

Andrew: I’ve seen US and UK editions of some titles around and noticed some subtle changes, but I would really like to hear how things were tweaked for the two editions.

Louise: Changes made for the US edition were minimal – mostly spelling changes and some obvious vocabulary such as “senior” rather than “final year of high school” and “paraffin” for “kerosene”. We decided together not to change “bookshop” to “bookstore” as apparently the word has currency in the US for a smaller kind of shop such as Natsuki Books. I was so happy with that decision.

The Cat was the first time I had the opportunity to work on a US edition, and I had the final say on the edition, which I usually don’t.

I must mention that the ginger tabby on top of the pile of books is just the UK cover. I like it a lot but the US cover deserves a mention as it is by famed artist Yuko Shimizu and is gorgeous.

TheCatWhoSavedBooks--original

The cover of the US edition by award-winning artist Yuko Shimizu – from Louise’s SCBWI page

Andrew: Yes it is! And it’s nice to know you had the final say on the text of the US edition this time. To wrap up, do you have anything in the works?

Louise: I don’t have any children’s or YA titles in the works but Death on Gokumon Island by Seishi Yokomizo (the second book in Kosuke Kindaichi detective series) will be released at the end of June 2022. Another title by Hideo Yokoyama by the end of the year, and I’m currently working on two more classic crime novels.

Andrew: End of June 2022 is not far away! Thank you again for sharing your story with The Cat with us!

The Saga of Sweet Bean Paste: A Conversation with Alison Watts

by Deborah Iwabuchi, Maebashi, Japan

I first read Sweet Bean Paste, by Durian Sukegawa and translated by Alison Watts, in 2019. It was just after a string of deaths in the family and just before the pandemic. Recently I decided it was time to go back to the book and talk to the translator about it. After a re-read, I set up a video conference with Alison Watts and ended up glued to my seat as she told me about her life-changing experiences with Sweet Bean Paste and author Durian Sukegawa.

First of all, the book is about Sentaro, a man of about forty who has spent time in prison, is in debt, and works at a job he doesn’t particularly like. He makes dorayaki, sweet bean paste sandwiched between pancakes, and sells it from a little shop. The profits go to pay back a loan. His only pleasure in life is an occasional beer. One day, a woman named Tokue comes to call and apply for a job. She’s quite elderly and her hands are misshapen. Tokue turns out to be a former Hansen’s disease patient. Sentaro turns her down again and again, but her bean-paste making skills win him over. She cooks up huge batches of the bean paste for dorayaki as she teaches Sentaro how to make it too. The story includes the basic history of the treatment of people with Hansen’s disease in Japan, and takes the reader inside Tenshoen, based on Tama Zenshoen in Tokyo, a sanatorium where many people were forced to stay for decades even after they were cured.

Alison Watts, a translator and long-term resident of Japan, found Sweet Bean Paste in 2013 when a foreign rights agent working on behalf of Poplar, the original publisher, gave her the book to read.

Alison: I read the book and couldn’t stop thinking about it. I wanted to translate it, so I did a synopsis and sample translation, and gave it to the agent. After that I didn’t hear anything for a couple of years. Then in 2016, Oneworld Publications contacted me and I got the contract to translate it. They wanted me to consult with the author as well, but instead of contacting Durian by email, I turned up at a musical-dramatic reading performance he was giving in Nasu to introduce myself. He wasn’t even aware that a translator had been assigned, so it was a complete surprise to him. He offered to show me around Tama Zenshoen, which he said the French translator of Sweet Bean Paste also found very helpful.

(Deborah: For more on Alison’s meeting with Durian, see the story Alison wrote about it for the Words Without Borders website.)

Alison: After I got to know Durian, I discovered how his own colorful history led to writing this story. To start out, he wanted to go into publishing, but he was apparently barred from entering many companies because of colorblindness. He went on to run a bar in Shinjuku; did part-time work in production, radio, magazines; became a star on late-night radio giving straight, non-judgmental advice to teenagers; was a TV presenter; and was an agony uncle on a help line. He also formed a moderately successful punk spoken-word band, Screaming Poets, which broke up when one of the members was arrested for drugs. After that, he spent time in New York to take a break from life. There he studied English, sang in a band, wrote poetry, and was on hand for the devastation of 9-11.

Guitarist Pickles Tamura, Alison, and Durian outside the farm temple at the 2016 Nasu performance where Alison first met Durian.

After that, he came back to Japan and resumed many of his creative endeavors. The common thread in all his work, I think, is that he is on the side of the underdog and the powerless, those who don’t get their voices heard.

Durian had wanted to write about Hansen’s patients after the law enforcing their isolation was repealed in 1996, which made their situation more widely known, but he didn’t feel qualified. Then quite by coincidence in 2006, some former Hansen’s disease patients came to see a concert he gave, which resulted in his getting to know them and going to Tama Zenshoen. The end result was Sweet Bean Paste. Hansen’s disease was touchy subject matter and the novel was rejected by many publishers. Poplar Publishing finally took it on and the book took off. Naomi Kawase made a film, starring the late Kiki Kirin, which was shown at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015.

Deborah: That’s some personal journey. What happened after you met him in Nasu?

Alison: A month later I toured Tama Zenshoen in Higashimurayama, Tokyo with Durian, the place on which the sanitorium in the novel is based, and also the location of the film. When we arrived, a musical festival was underway in the restaurant there, which is open to the public and even sells a zensai dessert based on Sweet Bean Paste. That day they were selling dorayaki too, which of course I ate. The mayor was there along with many people. It was fun. The sanitorium definitely seemed to be part of the community. The book and film have brought it much attention.

We visited the Hansen’s museum, and walked through the Zenshoen grounds, following a path described in the book that ends up at the charnel house where the remains of the dead are kept for those whose families refused to allow their ashes be interred in family graves. It was incredibly moving, and brought me so much closer to the story.

At Nagomi, the Zenshoen restaurant. Alison and Durian are pictured with Mi-chan, the manager, and the mayor of the city of Higashimurayama in Tokyo.

 

Deborah: So the author took you to the location of the story and answered all your questions. Your connection to him must have had an effect on your translation.

Alison: Absolutely. I literally walked right onto the set of Sweet Bean Paste and learned so much. But I also read Durian’s stage version of the story, a dramatic reading. It had details that weren’t in the novel that I felt would add to the reader’s understanding, so I asked his permission to include them.

Deborah: Any examples?

Alison: These lines of Tokue’s: “‘with this disease the eyesight gets weaker and sensation in the fingers and toes is gradually lost. But for some reason sensation in the tongue is the last to be affected. Can you imagine what it’s like for someone who can’t see or feel, to taste something sweet?’”  

Another thing was the Author’s Note. Talking with Durian taught me a lot about his reasons for writing the book, and I realized he had a philosophy on life that was integral to the story, which I wanted readers to hear too. So I asked the publisher if we could have an Author’s Note with the English version. She agreed and I translated this as well. Whenever I see it quoted on Goodreads or blogs, I feel really satisfied at having brought that about—it is such a powerful statement. For example, these lines:

“Some lives are all too brief, while others are a continual struggle. I couldn’t help thinking that it was a brutal assessment of people’s lives to employ usefulness to society as a yardstick by which to measure their value.” And these: “Anyone is capable of making a positive contribution to the world through simple observation, irrespective of circumstance.” This is the gist of the message Tokue had for Sentaro and Wakana in the book, both of whom struggled to make sense of their existences. These words really resonate with readers.

At the stone cairn at Zenshoen commemorating filming of An. Calligraphy (same as on movie flyer) by Naomi Kawase.

That aspect of the book had a great influence on me personally. My brother, who had schizophrenia, died a couple of years ago at the age of 51. I had to give his eulogy, and suspected some people might be feeling his life had been wasted because of his illness. But thanks to this story I had a means to frame my thoughts. I was able to stand up straight and say with confidence that my brother’s life had been as full and worthwhile as anybody’s.

Deborah: (searching for a tissue) Is that the end of the story?

Alison: Actually, no. Another result of my visit to Nasu was I decided to ask Durian and his guitarist, Pickles, to give the same performance in Tokai-mura, where I live. Up until the 2011 Fukushima disaster, it was the location of Japan’s worst-ever nuclear accident, which occurred in 1999. Of course Fukushima also had enormous consequences for Tokai-mura, but it’s hard to discuss them openly as most people in the town are connected to the nuclear industry. So Durian and Pickles came and gave a performance in February 2017. It was great—even the mayor came!

Poster for the February 2017 dramatic reading concert that Alison organized in Tokai-mura; Pickles Tamura, Durian, Alison and Tokai-mura’s Mayor Yamada and Deputy Mayor Hagiya at the concert.

Deborah: So you are still connected.

Alison: Yes, we met in Kamakura in early January. Durian is writing a series of animal fables and is a professor at Meiji Gakuin University these days.

Deborah: How is the book doing?

Alison: Ever since the pandemic started, Sweet Bean Paste has quietly boomed. Every single day I get alerts that somebody somewhere is reading, recommending or talking about it. Not bad for a novel published in 2017 by an independent publisher with little fanfare! Goodreads reviews have zoomed to 1500.

Deborah: I see Oneworld has it labeled “bestseller” in their pamphlet. Congratulations! What do you think is the connection with the pandemic that has drawn so many readers?

Alison: I think the experience of lockdown helped many readers identify with Tokue. Plus the struggles and uncertainty of life caused by the pandemic have set many people thinking about what makes life worthwhile. But Sweet Bean Paste doesn’t hit you over the head with heavy philosophical discussion. It’s an artfully simple, moving story that leaves the reader feeling better for having read it, and about their own place in the world, whatever that may be. I think that quality is what people appreciate the book for.

A flyer for an event featuring Durian and Masako Ueno, the former Hansen’s disease patient on whom Tokue was based. (Click to enlarge.)

Deborah: Alison, thanks so much for sharing your journey with Sweet Bean Paste. When I contacted you, I had no idea where it would lead. Are you working on any other books these days?

Alison: Yes, I’m currently translating What You Are Looking For Is In the Library by Michiko Aoyama, and I have two translations coming out this year: Fish Swimming in Dappled Sunlight by Riku Onda in June, and The Boy and the Dog by Seishu Hase in November.

Deborah: Then I guess I’ll be talking to you again soon!

To our readers: See also Alison’s bio.

Alison Watts and Deborah Iwabuchi

 

2022 GLLI Translated YA Book Prize Shortlist

By Andrew Wong, Tokyo, Japan
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The Global Literature in Libraries Initiative has narrowed down its list of titles for the 2022 GLLI Translated YA Book Prize to a shortlist of five titles, two of which are translated from Japanese – Colorful (Eto Mori, tr. Jocelyne Allen) and The Easy Life in Kamusari (Shion Miura, tr. Juliet Winters Carpenter).
 
Colorful is about a boy finding himself in a second look at life in someone’s body while The Easy Life explores the ganbaru spirit in a coming-of-age story set in the landscape of the forestry industry.
 
Check out Holly’s interview with Jocelyne on Colorful here!

Talking about COLORFUL

by Holly Thompson, Kamakura, Japan

I’m always eager to read middle-grade and young adult novels that present teen struggles and real-life challenges in fresh ways, so I was eagerly awaiting the English-language publication of Colorful. At last, another YA novel translated from Japanese into English! AND a timeless novel with complex characters that takes a probing look at universal issues of shifting relationships with family, peers and society at large through humor, fantasy and unforgettable voice.

Today I’m pleased to be in conversation with translator Jocelyne Allen about her recently published translation of the bestselling novel Colorful by Eto Mori (Counterpoint Press, 2021). Eto Mori is the acclaimed Japanese novelist of award-winning children’s and YA books, including the novels Rizumu (Rhythm), Tsuki no fune (Moon Ship), the four-book series Daibu!! (Dive!!), and Kaze ni maiagaru biniru shito (Plastic Sheet Soaring in the Wind), which won the Naoki Prize.

Holly: Colorful was first published in Japan in 1998 to great acclaim, making it the third novel of celebrated novelist Eto Mori to win a juvenile literature award. Three films and a musical have been created from this novel that has sold over a million copies in Japan. When did you first learn about Colorful and how? Had you read any Eto Mori novels before translating Colorful?

Jocelyne Allen

Jocelyne: I can’t remember the first time I heard of the novel. It seemed to be one of those things floating in the cultural air, especially since I moved to Japan not long after it was published. I hadn’t actually read any of Mori’s novels before translating Colorful, although I had read a number of her short stories, and I had her novel Mikazuki sitting on my shelf waiting to be read.

Holly: You keep such a busy schedule translating manga and light novels, including the translations of Onward Toward Your Noble Deaths by Shigeru Mizuki, many volumes of What did you Eat Yesterday by Fumi Yoshinaga, Akino Kondoh’s graphic shorts on Words Without Borders, to name just a few, and your publication list is many pages long. So how did you end up translating Colorful? Were you approached? Or did you approach the Japanese publisher (Bungeishunju)? And did you suggest this book to Counterpoint Press? Could you tell us about the path to translation for this novel and your involvement?

Jocelyne: I was actually approached by my editor at Counterpoint Press, Yukiko Tominaga. She’s a huge fan of the novel and was really the driving force behind this project. I’ve had a relationship with the Japanese publisher for a number of years, and when Counterpoint licensed the title from Bungeishunju, they suggested that Counterpoint get in touch with me and see if I was available to do the translation. Yukiko also liked my work on another Bungeishunju book, A Small Charred Face by Kazuki Sakuraba, so she emailed and asked if I’d be interested in doing a sample translation for them. I said yes, translated a sample of about thirty pages, sent that to Yukiko, she presented it to her editorial board, and they decided they liked my sample enough to go ahead with the translation.

Holly: The title of the novel is カラフル (Karafuru) in Japanese and Colorful in English. Sometimes titles are changed for English-language publications, yet this title would seem to be a given. Was there ever any question about the English-language title?

Jocelyne: I don’t think there was, actually. I never brought the question up, anyway, and in all my conversations with the publisher, there was an underlying assumption that the title of the book would also be Colorful in English.

Holly: Your name appears on the book’s cover—hooray for #NameTheTranslator! Did you request this or is this standard practice for Counterpoint?

Jocelyne: Hooray for #NameTheTranslator! I did in fact request this. The original contract Counterpoint sent stipulated that my name would appear on the title page and the copyright page, but there was nothing about it being on the cover. So I said that I’d like the cover to be added to the list of places where my name appears, and they agreed right away. I didn’t have to fight for it exactly, but I did have to ask.

Holly: The premise of the story is that the narrator has won a lottery of sorts. After a serious mistake in a previous life, the protagonist has been assigned to borrow ninth-grader Makoto Kobayashi’s body for a temporary “homestay” of several months. This novel manages to dive into serious topics of bullying, anxiety, family stress, betrayal and suicidality. Yet this is managed with the deft use of humor plus elements of fantasy via the wise-cracking angel Prapura who appears now and then to offer background hints about the life of Makoto whose body the protagonist inhabits, and to chide and guide him. The story builds in unexpected ways and the ending absolutely resonates. I certainly hope this book will reach many English-speaking readers worldwide. What in particular do you think/hope will appeal to readers outside Japan?

Jocelyne: The themes of the book are so universal, even if a lot of the details aren’t. I think readers around the world can relate to being that age, to trying so hard to figure things out and yet messing up spectacularly. My hope is that readers will leave the book with a feeling of forgiveness toward themselves. They might be a mess, but we all are, even if we don’t look it. I think that’s a lesson that resonates wherever you are in the world and whatever language you grew up speaking.

Holly: Many scenes of Colorful take place in a Japanese middle school where Makoto is a 3rd year student (grade 9). Scenes are set in classrooms, the art room, soccer, on the school roof, and there are entrance exams—were there any translation challenges? Did you need to sneak in some context for English-speaking readers, and if so, can you offer some examples?

Jocelyne: So many translation challenges! I think the most difficult one was the entrance exams and that whole system. I tend to translate relying on the reader’s intelligence, so I don’t gloss all that much. I think for the most part, readers can figure out what something is and don’t need to be coddled. So the fact of entrance exams themselves wasn’t all that hard. Just make it clear that there are exams students need to take to get into high school and that these exams are a big deal, and readers will take that as part of this world they’re walking into. But implicit in the idea of entrance exams for a Japanese reader is the whole “shingaku” system. The difference between public and private schools is also well known and doesn’t need to be explained in a novel like this for a Japanese reader. But English readers have no idea about this system of education, so I had to massage a lot of the school references to include information about cost and the like, so that English readers could understand Makoto’s dilemma about exams and schools in a similar way as Japanese readers. Everything related to Makoto going to high school was a definite challenge.

Holly: For a book about teens that was published over twenty years ago, Colorful feels timeless. Granted, no cell phones appear in the novel, and there is a moment when the Heisei Era is mentioned, but otherwise, the story feels quite contemporary. As you translated did you aim to contemporize language or content in any way?

Jocelyne: I honestly didn’t. The book Mori wrote is really that timeless. That said, I wasn’t particularly conscious about avoiding anachronistic language like I would be with a novel that was more a product of its time. I tried to keep the same neutrality in terms of slang and other things that the original Japanese has. I think the only thing I updated slightly was the boots that Makoto ordered. In the original, he “mail” orders them, but I translated that as he “ordered” them to leave the where and the how of the ordering ambiguous. Deliberately insisting on the “mail” part would only raise questions in the reader’s mind that weren’t intended by Mori, especially given that we use the same word to refer to ordering things online now.

Eto Mori

Holly: The voices of the various characters—Makoto, his family members, the unpredictable Prapura, classmates Hiroka, Shoko and Saotome—are all distinct and add to the richness of the novel. Which of the voices were the most challenging or interesting to translate and why?

Jocelyne: Hiroka was the most challenging without a doubt. Instead of using the personal pronoun “I”, she speaks in this cutesy way of referring to herself by her first name. So “Hiroka wants” or “Hiroka thinks”, etc. It’s a thing that little kids do, and sometimes young women do it to sound cute and flirtatious. But obviously, it’s weird to refer to yourself by your own name in English, so I had to figure out how to capture the cutesy flirtatiousness of this in other ways.

Prapura was also a fun voice to try and sort out. He talks pretty casually on earth but very polite up in the heavens. Makoto even remarks on this change in register, so it was important to actually convey it in the translation. But English is less obvious about register, so it was a bit of a trick to make the difference obvious without hitting readers over the head with it.

Holly: Interestingly, Counterpoint Press states on their website that they do not publish YA or children’s literature, yet Colorful won the Sankei Children’s Book Award in 1999, and Colorful is solidly YA according to standard English-language publisher categorizations. I hope that this translation of Colorful will reach both YA and adult audiences, don’t you? I imagine that publishers in the U.S. would suggest this book for readers age 14 and up. Do you know if or how Counterpoint is marketing Colorful to the YA audience? to readers in North America? And, if you could share a few words to recommend this novel to teen readers and YA librarians, what would you say?

Jocelyne: I do hope the book reaches audiences of all ages. Right from the start, we were thinking of Colorful as an all-ages kind of thing because it really does have the power to speak to both YA and adult audiences. As I mentioned earlier, the themes really are universal, and you don’t have to be a teenager to relate to Makoto and his struggle. From what I understand, Counterpoint is marketing it to both YA and adult audiences, sending the book out for review to places like School Library Journal and similar publications geared toward librarians and educators.

If I were to recommend the book to anyone, I think I would quote the conversation between Makoto and Hiroka:

“Everyone’s messed up. We’re all normal and messed up.”

“It’s not just me?”

“It’s not just you.”

Colorful is funny and hopeful in a way that doesn’t deny or reject the idea that life can be and often is really hard. But it reassures readers that they’re not alone. And honestly, I think that’s a great thing for a book to be able to do.

Holly: Have you had the chance to meet or read side by side with author Eto Mori?

Jocelyne: I have! Of course with the pandemic, everything is virtual, but I met with Mori and her editor when we were getting ready to release the book, and we’ve done a few events together as well. I interpreted for her appearance at the International Festival of Authors here in Toronto, as well as a launch event this summer hosted by the Japan Foundation Los Angeles, and we’ll be doing a couple other events toward the end of the year.

Holly: The Counterpoint edition of the novel includes a beautiful afterword by author Eto Mori in which she states that “Teenagers in Japan have such difficult lives both now and then,” meaning when the book was first published in 1998. She writes: “I chose to write about a serious subject with a comical touch, I chose to depict it lightly. I wanted kids who liked reading and those who didn’t to have fun with it to start. I wanted them to laugh and roll their eyes at and relate to everything the characters did. I wanted them to enter the world of the book and be free of their everyday lives. And then, when they closed the book at the end, I wanted the weight on their hearts to be just a little lighter.” This is such a moving afterword, and this book feels like a hug to teens everywhere. Did Counterpoint reach out to Eto Mori for this afterword? Did you? Was this planned from the beginning?

Jocelyne: It really is such a moving and thoughtful afterword! Counterpoint reached out to her for it, and as far as I know, it was planned from the beginning.

Holly: There are so few Japanese middle-grade and YA novels translated into English. Are you planning to translate more Japanese MG or YA literature? (We hope so!)

Jocelyne: I would love to translate more YA into English! But it’s a hard sell for publishers. Light novels are similarly YA (albeit fantasy for the most part), and these are a lot easier to sell right now with manga and anime tie-ins and adaptations. A YA novel without that anime connection faces a hard battle toward translation into English.

Holly: Thank you so much and I hope that Colorful reaches many readers around the world!

Jocelyne: Thank you! I’m so happy Colorful has already found its way into the hearts of so many readers. It’s honestly so gratifying.

2020 GLLI Translated YA Book Prize Goes to The Beast Player and Maresi Red Mantle

By Andrew Wong, Tokyo

The wait for this year’s Global Literature in Libraries Initiative (GLLI) Translated YA Book Prize is over!

As announced on April 2, GLLI have selected not one but two titles for the top prize, one of which is Nahoko Uehashi’s The Beast Player, translated from the Japanese by Cathy Hirano. This adds to Uehashi’s list of international accolades since Hirano’s translation of the first book in the Moribito series won global recognition in 2009. The Beast Player shares the prize with fellow fantasy title Maresi Red Mantle by Finland’s Maria Turtschaninoff, translated from the Finno-Swedish by A. A. Prime.

One other Japanese title, Kazuki Kaneshiro’s Go, translated by Takami Nieda, also made the 13-strong shortlist.

Lockdown? Another reason to stay home and wander around the worlds created in these books! Stay safe everyone.

Takami Nieda in Tokyo on June 22, 2019

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators presents

Translator Takami Nieda on the YA-Adult Crossover Novel

Time: Saturday, June 22, 2019, 6:00-7:30 p.m.

Place: Tokyo Women’s Plaza, Audio Visual Room B

5-53-67 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

(near the United Nations University; map)

Fee: SCBWI members 800 yen; nonmembers 1,200 yen

RSVP: To reserve a place, email japan (at) scbwi.org by Thursday, June 20

This event will be in English.

Takami Nieda’s translation of Go: A Coming-of-Age Novel by Kazuki Kaneshiro, has won acclaim in the US as adult fiction—and a Freeman Award for YA/High School Literature. What has made it strike a chord with readers in two traditionally distinct categories?

Nieda introduces a searing story of anti-Korean discrimination in Japan, which features two teens and is by turns romantic and violent, not unlike Romeo and Juliet, the source of its epigraph. Nieda discusses the translation issues she encountered, the experience of working with a crossover book, and her hopes for Go’s future.

Kazuki Kaneshiro graduated from Keio University. In 2000, he won the Naoki Prize for Go, which tackles issues of ethnicity and discrimination in Japanese society. The novel’s film adaptation went on to win every major award in Japan in 2002. Many of Kaneshiro’s works have been made into films or manga, and Kaneshiro has been adept at working synergistically across multiple formats and genres.

Takami Nieda was born in New York City and has degrees in English from Stanford University and Georgetown University. She has translated and edited more than twenty works of fiction and nonfiction from Japanese into English and has received numerous grants in support of her translations, including the PEN/Heim Translation Fund for the translation of Kazuki Kaneshiro’s Go. Her translations have also appeared in Words Without BordersAsymptote, and PEN America. Nieda teaches writing and literature at Seattle Central College in Washington State.

japan.scbwi.org

Tasting Sakura Season with Sweet Bean Paste

By Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok

Though unable to visit Japan during sakura season this year, I got a taste of it through Sweet Bean Paste, a novel by Durian Sukegawa translated into English by Alison Watts.

This novel features a young man who runs a dorayaki shop, an elderly woman who overturns his process, and a high school girl who connects the two in a poignant way. It offers an unflinching look at the history of leprosy in Japan and forms the basis for the movie Sweet Bean.

A novel for adults that is YA-appropriate, it shows how international fiction does not always follow UK/US age category rules. (At SCBWI Japan Translation Day 2018, we also saw how the adult-marketed novella Ms. Ice Sandwich by Mieko Kawakami, translated by Louise Heal Kawaii, can work as YA or even as middle grade).

Taste something fresh, complex and delicious with Sweet Bean Paste this spring—and share with a teen near you.

Freeman Book Award for YA/High School Goes to GO

By Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok

The novel Go by Kazuki Kaneshiro, translated by Takami Nieda, has won a Freeman Book Award in the Young Adult/High School category.

The Freeman Book Awards are sponsored by the USA’s National Consortium for Teaching about Asia (NCTA), the Committee on Teaching about Asia (CTA) of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS), and Asia for Educators (AFE) at Columbia University. The awards garland children’s and YA titles “that contribute meaningfully to an understanding of East and Southeast Asia.”

Go is a coming-of-age story about a zainichi (resident) Korean teen boy, born in Japan, who falls in love with a Japanese girl. This seems a forbidden romance given Japan’s history of anti-zainichi discrimination.

The NCTA has a page about Go here, and Publishing Perspectives has an illuminating interview with Nieda here. Nieda spoke by recorded Skype at SCBWI Japan Translation Day 2018.

Go read Go!

Takami Nieda appears on video at SCBWI Japan Translation Day in October 2018.

Inaugural GLLI Translated YA Book Prize Goes to Manga from Japan

By Andrew Wong, Tokyo

The Global Literature in Libraries Initiative (GLLI) has just announced the winner of its inaugural (2019) Translated YA Book Prize, and it’s a work from Japan! The winner is My Brother’s Husband Vols. 1-2 by Gengoroh Tagame, translated from the Japanese by Anne Ishii, published by Pantheon Graphic Library.

The GLLI accolade adds to a long list of kudos for this manga. An Eisner winner, My Brother’s Husband has also been adapted into a three-part TV matinee drama series that aired on NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster, in Spring 2018.

Along with the inaugural prize winner, three honor titles were announced. These works, all novels, were translated from French, Spanish (Equatorial Guinea) and Swedish.

Submissions for the 2020 award are open!

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!