MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
Earlier this year, I interviewed writer Lisa See about her novel "Shanghai Girls." And today, she has some other novels to share for our series, Three Books, where writers recommend three books on one theme.
Ms. LISA SEE (Author, "Shanghai Girls"): During the last few years, I've been drawn to novels by Japanese-American women writers. They write about the same things that I write about: love, race, identity, place, history and its effect on the present. Yet their stories couldn't be more different from mine.
Author Naomi Hirahara's parents were Hiroshima survivors, and her father was a gardener in Los Angeles. In her first mystery, the "Summer of the Big Bachi," she meticulously and affectionately takes the reader into the subculture of Southern California's Japanese nurserymen and gardeners at a moment when they are fast disappearing from our landscape.
The main character, Mas Arai, tends other people's gardens, but his own life has gone to seed. He's a Hiroshima survivor. He's a widower. He wears dentures. He's losing longtime clients to young men he once hired. And now, he's about to come face to face with bachi, the spirit of retribution. When a stranger comes to L.A. asking questions about Joji Haneda, who also lived in Hiroshima during the war, Mas becomes a reluctant detective.
"My Year of Meats" by Ruth Ozeki is a wild romp, deeply comical, bitingly satiric and unabashedly romantic. Jane is a Japanese-American documentarian who is hired to work on a TV cooking show called "My American Wife!," which takes her into the heartland to meet our very best housewives who show off their most yummy dishes: Busy B Brisket, Coca-Cola Roast, and my favorite, Beef Fudge.
Ozeki captures the problems of globalization and the battle between personal and professional honor while looking at some pretty serious issues associated with the meat industry.
Finally, one of my absolute favorite books is "The Age of Dreaming" by Nina Revoyr. It's a literary novel masquerading as a noir mystery set in Los Angeles. Jun Nakayama, who was once a silent film star, lives in near obscurity in the Hollywood Hills. A journalist tracks him down, and before you know it, the secrets that once caused Jun to retire from the movie business threatened to be revealed.
Revoyr, who was inspired by real people and real events, including the murder scandal that destroyed the career of Mary Miles Minter, has created a novel that explores Hollywood and Little Tokyo during the teens in �20s and asks us to question: what is love, how do we recognize it, and what will we sacrifice for it?
I personally don't know much about what it means to be Japanese-American, but in these three marvelous books, these Japanese-American women writers have opened their world to me and given me a taste of that experience.
NORRIS: Lisa See is the author most recently of "Shanghai Girls." The three books she recommended are "The Age of Dreaming" by Nina Revoyr, "My Year of Meats" by Ruth Ozeki and "Summer of the Big Bachi" by Naomi Hirahara. You can find lots more reading recommendations at npr.org.
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