The author of the National Book Award finalist I Hotel collects her short fiction that transfers classic tales across boundaries and questions what an inheritance—familial, cultural, emotional, artistic—really means.
Karen Tei Yamashita is a contemporary virtuoso of milieu, using her genre-bending work to explore multicultural environments and the ways that race, immigration and globalization affect various locales and the people within them. It’s both unexpected and apt that Yamashita intermingles her perceptiveness with Austen’s in her latest collection of stories ... these inventive and illuminating short pieces stylishly examine an array of scenarios, both realistic and imagined, including life in the Japanese immigrant community in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and the internment during World War II of Japanese citizens in concentration camps, including the one in Topaz, Utah.
As a nisei who speaks Japanese and has not read Austen since college two decades ago, I struggled to access some stories and was easily carried away by others ... Yamashita poignantly contrasts [Marie] Kondo’s joy in discarding to live in the 'here and now,' with the critical importance of looking back, despite the accompanying pain, and holding on. At the crux of the entire collection rests a tension between the need to shed, and the idea that 'keeping the stuff, saving it, might also be a way of transforming your life' ... Sansei and Sensibility challenges and delights, while laying bare the familial loyalties we work to preserve and eschew.
By the end of the Sansei section, the reader has a good grasp of the issues and culture of issei, nisei, and especially sansei families, necessary to appreciate the Sensibility section which, while it also addresses internment camps and cultural differences between issei and nisei, does so with a mischievousness characteristic of Austen novels. Unlike most other Asian-flavored riffs on Jane Austen novels, these are short stories and not full length novels. But Yamashita executes her adaptations brilliantly ... The Sansei and Sensibility stories fit together nicely as a diverse cross-section of sansei experiences. The Jane Austen adaptations are fun and light-hearted, and serve as an apt framework for this collection.