Tag: LGBTQI

Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami

Posted October 7, 2020 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 0 Comments

Breasts and Eggs by Mieko KawakamiTitle: Breasts and Eggs (Goodreads)
Author: Mieko Kawakami
Translator: Sam Bett, David Boyd
Published: Picador, 2020
Pages: 430
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindleWordery (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

After reading Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo (translated by Jamie Chang), I moved on to Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami (which is translated from the Japanese by Sam Bett & David Boyd). These two books seem to pair nicely with each other; one explores the everyday sexism that woman face, while the other is a look at fertility and body image issues. However, I am not the right person to talk about Breasts and Eggs, and I only choose to write down my thoughts as a way for my own personal recollection. This is a sensitive topic and having a male reviewer explore the topic feels wrong, like a male author writing about female sexuality.

Mieko Kawakami originally wrote Breast and Eggs as a novella, which was later rewritten into the novel that has recently been released. This is the story of three women, the unnamed narrator in her mid-thirties, her older sister Makiko, and Makiko’s twelve-year-old daughter, Midoriko. Three women at different stages in their lives, exploring the issues of motherhood, fertility and their bodies. These three narratives allow the author to explore a range of body issues, Makiko is unhappy with her breasts and is having breast enhancement surgery. Not just enlargements but she wants to change her nipples, make them pink. Midoriko is going through puberty and is unable to express her insecurities about her changing body. While the unnamed narrator wants to become a mother, but Japanese reproductive laws only apply to married heterosexual women that are unable to conceive.

As you can see, this novel explores so many important issues and as a man, I do not feel like it is my place to weigh in on these topics. Women have enough problems with men trying to dictate their lives. However, I did find it fascinating to explore the struggles these women are facing and the way they try to navigate through their lives. This is a book about the repression woman face in Japan, but like Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982, I think this is a much more universal problem.

Breast and Eggs has so much to offer and so many issues to explore. I really liked that the narrator explored the idea of asexuality but was still interested in motherhood. She was aromantic but still wanted to be a parent and was looking at options on how to achieve that. I do not think I have ever read a novel about an ace’s journey into becoming a mum and it really highlights just how important it is to explore the different struggles people face from around the world. I read translated literature for this reason, I want to see the different social experiences, as well as the similarities. This is why we need representation from people all over the world, and the LGBTQI+ community.

I really hope that I was able to verbalise my thoughts on Breast and Eggs without overstepping my mark. While this is a book that women should be talking about and reviewing, I still think it is important for men to read as well. I simply want to write my thoughts on this book, so I have a record of my feelings; I post reviews on my blog to document my reading journal. I hope I am not offending anyone by talking about Breast and Eggs.


Disoriental by Négar Djavadi

Posted October 19, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 8 Comments

Disoriental by Négar DjavadiTitle: Disoriental (Goodreads)
Author: Négar Djavadi
Translator: Tina Kover
Published: Europa Edition, 2018
Pages: 338
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindleWordery (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Shortlisted for the National Book Award for Translated Literature 2018
Longlisted for the BTBA 2019

Normally I am not a fan of multi-generational stories but there is always an exception to the rule and Disoriental is just that. My major problem is that there is never enough time spent with the characters. In this novel we follow Kimiâ Sadr who fled Iran with her mother and sisters at the age of ten. They join their father in France in the hopes for a better life. Now fifteen years later Kimiâ is overwhelmed with the memories of her ancestors.

What I loved about this novel is the way Négar Djavadi focuses specifically on one person but uses her as the foundation to look at the ancestry of her family. The constant waves of memories and stories are the driving force of Disoriental which allows the reader to explore the cultural history of Iran. From her great-grandfather Montazemolmolk, who had a harem of fifty-two wives, to Kimiâ, a queer woman sitting in a Parisian fertility clinic.

The inner flap refers to this novel as a kaleidoscopic story and I cannot think of a better way to describe Disoriental. We experience many key moments in Iranian history from the perspective of the Sadr family. We look at the cultural changes, the politics and the family throughout. The difference between Kimiâ and her great-grandfather are vastly different. A key element I found fascinating was the treatment of the LGBTQI community. A place where losing your virginity before marriage, having an affair, or abortion, or even a drug addiction is better than being a homosexual. I was surprised to learn that sex changes are legal in Iran, it is better to change your entire gender identity than be same sex attracted.

This whole history makes up the struggle for Kimiâ in the fertility clinic. She is torn between family traditions and her own ‘disorientalisation’ as a modern woman. While this might sound like a bleak novel and in many ways it really is, Négar Djavadi offers so much tenderness to the whole experience as well. We look at the history, we see the family dramas but we also see the triumphs as well. Living in Paris where Kimiâ has more freedom than she may have had in an alternate life. There is so much more to explore within Disoriental but for me this was a novel of identity. Her family’s past defines Kimiâ Sadr as much as her own identity.

I found so much tenderness within such an important book. It was the little moments in their lives that really helped along the way. For example at the beginning of the novel Kimiâ’s father Dirius never took the elevator. He say they were for ‘them’ and by ‘them’ he meant the citizens of France. In this little anecdote we see so much about the attitude he had as an immigrant. Without going into the bleak backstory we know Dirius Sadr sees himself as a second-class citizen not wanting to do anything that might offend the people around him. This small tale says so much without going into specifics. It is this kind of storytelling that allows Négar Djavadi to write about so much about the world without adding to the bleakness.

I am very impressed with Disoriental. I love a novel that can explore important subjects and deal with the current start of the world without making the whole reading experience feel like a chore. I assume that this novel is semi-biographical but I am only speculating. Négar Djavadi has done an amazing job and it is important to have novels like Disoriental in the world. Tina Kover did a wonderful job translating this book which allows me to understand a little more about the world I live in. I highly recommend Disoriental, and it is my pick to win the National Book Award for Translated Literature in 2018.