cover image Turning Japanese

Turning Japanese

MariNaomi. 2dcloud, $24.95 (228p) ISBN 978-1-93754-116-3

Graphic memoirist MariNaomi (Kiss and Tell) explores a chunk of her 20s in the 1990s, spent working in hostess bars in California and Japan while traveling with her then-fiancé, Giuseppe. Naomi’s off-the-cuff, thoughtful anecdotes look at a sometimes banal, sometimes frightening social space. It’s not exactly sex work, but hostess work leans on the same idea: making male clients feel important and desired. Naomi’s simple, brush-drawn artwork tells the story clearly with a breezy tone, though the images’ starkness causes occasional narrative confusion. Naomi deals with the nuances of being hapa, half white and half Japanese, while trying to get her mother to speak Japanese with her. After some time, Naomi suffers an anxiety attack from the constant harassment at her job. Threads around anxiety and racial identity culminate in a thoughtful scene in which Naomi visits an ancient temple known to hold a balming effect for travelers. This book has something of the same effect in its exploration of the many complexities of identity and romance. (May)