River with No Bridge

Sue Sumii, Author, Susan Wilkinson, Translator Tuttle Publishing $19.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-8048-1590-1
Japan's three million burakumin outcasts (``new commoners''), are racially no different from other Japanese, yet their traditional identification with ``unclean'' occupations--midwifery, tanning, butchering, etc.--has served as a pretext for continued discrimination against them. Their plight is dramatized in this very leisurely novel, set around 1908-13, the first part of a six-volume epic which Sumii completed in 1973, and of which this is the first English translation. Koji, an eta and a prize pupil, endures schoolmates' biased taunts; his teacher calls him a poisonous snake. His older brother, outspoken Seitaro, leaves school and becomes a rice dealer's apprentice. When a burakumin village burns down, playmates jeer that the fire stank because eta burned in it. Translated with a light touch, Sumii's delicate narrative draws back a curtain to reveal Japan's ugly secret and to show the insidious effects of prejudice. It also throws a sharp light on Japan's rigid school system. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/05/1990
Release date: 06/01/1990
Paperback - 359 pages - 978-0-8048-3327-1
Open Ebook - 624 pages - 978-1-4629-0329-0
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