Night in the American Village: The Women in the Shadow of the U.S. Military Bases in Okinawa

Akemi Johnson. New Press, $27.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-62097-331-8
In a searing and stylish debut, journalist Johnson delves into the consequences of America’s military presence in Japan’s southernmost prefecture, revealing a complicated web of sexual and racial politics. Two post-WWII treaties designed to prevent Japan from remilitarizing prompted the U.S. to establish a larger overseas military presence in Okinawa than anywhere else outside of the U.S. Johnson, who is Japanese-American, frames her investigation around the tale of the 2016 rape and murder of 20-year-old Rina Shimabukuro by a former U.S. Marine working on Kadena Air Base. Over the course of 10 chapters, each focusing on a memorable woman she met in Okinawa, Johnson uses Shimabukuro’s death as a metaphor for the long-standing tensions between the Americans and Okinawans. The chapter on Sachiko Miyagi, who was a teenager put to work in a field hospital during the ferocious U.S. invasion of Okinawa, is chilling and heartbreaking; the story of Suzuyo Takazato, who cofounded Okinawa Women Against Military Violence in 1995, is interwoven with the history of rape by American servicemen in Okinawa. An accomplished storyteller, Johnson paints a nuanced portrait of Okinawa’s women as “players in the larger geopolitical game, influencing, challenging, and smoothing the way for the U.S.-Japan security alliance” who sometimes tell “truths others don’t want to hear.” This is a must-read look at the impact of the U.S.’s overseas military presence on the people who live near it, cultural collisions, and gendered violence. Agent: Ayesha Pande, Ayesha Pande Literary. (June)
Reviewed on : 04/15/2019
Release date: 06/18/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
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