Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Lois-Ann Yamanaka

On Monday night, I had the distinct pleasure of hearing Lois-Ann Yamanaka reading from her new book Behold the Many at the 92nd Street Y in New York. This is the fourth or fifth time I have heard Lois read, and she gets better every time. Behold the Many is her sixth novel. She has also written a book of poetry and a children's book. A complete list is here.

Over the years, Lois and I have drummed up an acquaintanceship (yes, that's a real word). I would love to say "friendship" but I do not want to be presumptuous. I've never been to her house or sat and had coffee with her, but we have exchanged letters and cards, and she has commented favorably on poems I have sent her. My mom sees her occasionally in Hawai'i at a literary event here and there.

Anyway, so I heard her read Monday and the new book is amazing. Carol Haggas from Booklist said the following:

A mystical, magical, and, at times, macabre world unfolds in Yamanaka's elegiac tale of three sisters outcast from their family and society in turn-of-the-century Hawaii. Reminiscent of Father Damien's leper colony on the island of Molokai, Oahu's St. Joseph's orphanage is a bleak haven of last resort for children afflicted with the tuberculosis that is devastating the Kalihi Valley. As first Leah, then Aki, and finally Anah contract the disease, the sisters are banished by their monstrous father and forsaken by their powerless mother, left to fend for themselves under the callous negligence of the orphanage's nuns. Of the three sisters, only Anah will survive, but when she leaves St. Joseph's on her eighteenth birthday, she, her future husband, and their burgeoning family are destined to be haunted by the ghosts of Anah's long-dead siblings and the boy who once loved her. Redolent with the island's lush and languid atmosphere, Yamanaka's richly atmospheric novel paints a chillingly spectral portrait of souls tormented by love and guilt.

You can read the first review here. I have been a fan ever since I saw her perform "Boss of the Food" on the PBS documentary United States of Poetry. The poem can be read here on that show's website. If you do anything, read the poem. Those of you from Hawai'i should read all her stuff. Doing so brings me back home.

And go see her read. Tell her I sent you!

Seattle Public Library
Beacon Avenue Branch
2821 Beacon Avenue South
Seattle WA
2/8/2006 7:00 PM

A Clean Well-Lighted Place
601 Van Ness Ave.
San Francisco CA
2/9/2006 7:00 PM

Cody's Books
2454 Telegraph Ave.
Berkeley CA
2/10/2006 7:30 PM

Moon News Bookstore
315 Main Street
Half Moon Bay CA
2/10/2006 12:00 PM

Japanese American Museum
369 East First St.
Los Angeles CA
2/11/2006 11:00 AM

Native Books
Ward Warehouse
1050 #A8
Honolulu HI
3/2/2006 7:00 PM

Booklines Hawaii
269 Pali'I Street
Mililani HI
3/3/2006 6:00 PM

270 Dairy Rd. Ste. 190
Kahului HI
3/4/2006 1:00 PM

1200 Ala Moana Blvd.
Honolulu HI
3/26/2006 2:00 PM

Here's a photo from after the event:

I should also mention that Lois was introduced by renowned author Jessica Hagedorn, who provided a glowing introduction. Lois' reading was preceded by that of Chinese author Ha Jin, who is also a phenomenal writer. Read his book Waiting. It's excellent too! All in all, a splendid event.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Aloha! I stumbled on your blog while i was reading reviews of "Behold the Many." I have read all of Yamanaka's books, they are all amazing...which makes it difficult to pick my favorite. Last weekend (for the first time) I got to see her read from "Behold the Many." Awesome! now i feel like i have to read it again, just in case i missed something!