cover image Stranger in the Shogun’s City: A Japanese Woman and Her World

Stranger in the Shogun’s City: A Japanese Woman and Her World

Amy Stanley. Scribner, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-1-5011-8852-7

Northwestern University history professor Stanley debuts with an evocative and deeply researched portrait of 19th-century Japan through the events of one woman’s life in the decades before Commodore Perry’s 1853 arrival and the opening of the country to the West. Drawing from a collection of family papers, Stanley recreates the life of Tsuneno, “the loudest, the most passionate” daughter of a Buddhist priest, from her birth in a farming village in 1804; to her first marriage, at age 12; her long-awaited departure for Edo (present-day Tokyo) in her late 30s; her fourth and final marriage, to an unsteady samurai; and her death in 1853. Stanley documents numerous misfortunes endured by Tsuneno, including being raped by the man who escorted her over the mountains to Edo, being forced to take menial jobs, and wearing one unlined robe for months as her angry brother refused to ship her clothes to her. And yet, Stanley argues, “wise, brilliant, skillful” Tsuneno “always claimed what was hers.” Stanley fills in the blanks of Tsuneno’s letters and diary entries with well-informed speculation about her daily life and atmospheric descriptions of corrupt and sophisticated Edo during the Tokugawa shogunate. Japanophiles and readers of women’s history will be entranced. Agent: Jill Kneerim and Lucy Cleland, Kneerim & Williams. (July)