Yakuza Moon and Give-away

Title: Yakuza Moon
Author: Shoko Tendo
Publisher: Kodansha, International (originally published 2004)
Number of pages: 195
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

My mother has a note I wrote her when I was about five years old. It’s yellowed now, but it has the same message I’ve always felt:

Dear Mother,

I what to de a good lattle gril.

Love, Meredith

I couldn’t spell, but I knew I wanted to be a good little girl. This sentiment has followed me all of my life, even through college. I was simply too afraid to be anything else. The idea of being drunk, or high, and therefore left to someone else’s whims, was too terrifying for me to ever lose my self control. I ended up being good out of fear as much as intention.

But, I always wondered what it would be like to live dangerously. To abandon caution, to live on the wild side, to give in to one’s rebellious nature.  This book by Shoko Tendo shows us just what that kind of life is like.

A yakuza’s (gangster’s) daughter, Shoko was born into a world of privilege which quickly evaporated around her. When her father fell into enormous debt, the collectors came to their home and demanded payment. Her mother cried, her father raged, her parents fought, and her life quickly became a living hell. She left that hell for another: the world of drugs.

Like watching a train wreck, one car irrefutably piling into another, I’ve been enmeshed in Shoko’s memoir all day unable to tear myself away from her story.

The misfit who had been bullied at school, the innocent child who was almost raped by Mizugushi, the dutiful daughter who would help Mom clean up after one of Dad’s rampages, the little kid who always had to watch out she didn’t get Dad mad, none of these were the real me. I used to think about the events of my childhood as if they’d happened to someone else. It was much easier that way. But I had ended up reinventing myself too many times, and now it was impossible to tell who the real Shoko was. (p. 81)

Shoko’s story is a heart wrenching one, which tells with complete honesty about her life. It is one quite different from mine in so many respects, and yet it is the same in that we were both little girls who wanted to find a place where we’d belong. Anyone can see that Shoko’s heart is huge, and her search for love and acceptance is an agonizing one.

I am giving one copy of this book to Mel of The Reading Life because he has read six books for the Japanese Literature Challenge 3; more by four than I have! But, I have another copy to give away. If you are interested in being entered into the running, simply leave a comment here. If you want, you may relate it to the life you had growing up. Afterall, our experiences form much of who we are today.

Raised with strict ideas of honor, Tendo was both spoiled and scolded by the tattooed men who frequented her family home. In response she joined a gang, took drugs and became the lover of several gangsters before near-fatal beatings and drug overdoses convinced her to change her life.” ~Rueters

Tendo…hails from a section of Japanese society that most of her compatriots would rather did not exist. Her story…shines a light into a dark and little understood corner of modern Japan.” ~The Guardian

Emotionally complex and thoroughly heart-rending, this book is recommended for anyone searching for a more thorough and personal understanding of Japanese society.” ~Publishers Weekly