Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Book Review: 'The White Man and the Pachinko Girl' by Vann Chow

Chinese author Vann Chow was born in Hong Kong, but has lived abroad in many different countries and cultures –fodder for her special talent for sharing Asian history and culture with a wider audience. Her stories are often lighthearted and humorous but confront cultural and human rights and social issues with depth.

For those who may not know, Pachinko is a type of mechanical game originating in Japan and is used as both a form of recreational arcade game and much more frequently as a gambling device, filling a Japanese gambling niche comparable to that of the slot machine in Western gaming.

In Vann’s style of writing she introduces aspects of Asian culture is such a conversational manner, never pedagogical. For example form the first page she writes regarding a conversation between a Japanese man and an American man named Smith – ‘“I can't help but notice that you're all calling me Sumisu,” Smith replied. “I'm a regular Smith. Sh-mith. It came from the German word, Schmidt. It would be fine to end it with the 't' sound if the 'th' sound is too difficult for some, but to add a 'su' to the end of it is really just plain wrong.” “I know your name. Sumisu is one of the most popular Western names in Japan. If there's a Gaijin in a movie, a play, or a dialogue in an English language textbook, he would be a Sumisu,” That is a manner in which this fine new author admixes cultural differences with her story. It is most refreshing and educating.

The synopsis provided offers a fine outline of where the story will take us – An American businessman who liked to linger in Pachinko parlor every night in his lonely life as a foreigner in the city of Tokyo meets Misa, a young Japanese hostess that worked at a Pachinko parlor by chance. Knowing her personal woes, he gave her his winnings as an exchange for Japanese lessons. That large sum of money incriminated them to false accusations of sex trade. Meanwhile, an ex-adult film producer investigated the death of a certain foreign producer who happened to have filmed Misa in his legendary work in which she was seemingly strangled to death. What at first seems to be a murder mystery is an exploration and expose of human rights issues such as gender inequality, hyper-sexualization of teens, homosexual discrimination, racial discrimination, and workplace bullying among others in Japan through the eyes of a foreigner with his friends from different walks of lives and professions.

Vann Chow makes an impressive debut with the publication of this novel. Not only does she respect her reader in assisting them with the languages differences in a very comfortable and natural manner, but she knows how to weave a story of intrigue that blossoms in so many varying facets of topics that reading her story is both highly entertaining and mesmerizing. This young lady has a very fine career opening for her. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, March 17

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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