Terri came by to say hi while Henry was coerced into sitting in with us. We all wondered, how in the world did the book win an award? The complaints are: no depth in plot and character; simplistic language; fetishizes Vietnamese culture (Nick’s point).
1. Love VS Lust: Nick believed that Hiro-Konno relationship is lustful while Hiro-Yun, love. Such a separation of love/lust is relatable to Nick. However, for Alex, love/lust come hand-in-hand: the fact that Hiro is troubled over breaking up with Konno means she loves him to a certain extent.
2. Time: Nick brought up the unspecific time period irked him.
3. Fluidity of sexuality in women.
4. Racism: Timmy talked about the contradiction of Hiro/Mochizuki’s confusion, how she escapes from Japan to other countries because she dislikes Japan, yet at the same time, her racial pride makes her put Vietnamese down as stupid, naive children.
5. Homophobia: p. 38 and p. 41 describe Vietnamese men as effeminate, which, to Hiro, means they seem gay. Hiro has a stereotype of connecting gay men with femininity. “Real” men, to Hiro, have to be super duper masculine.
Alex pointed that Hiro’s sex/gender notion is very wrapped and homophobic as Hiro needs a penis to remind her that she is a woman: another classic case of lesbianophobia, that women need to be fucked now and then and there cannot be a pure lesbian.
6. Mother-Daughter relationship/family: Nick suggested that Hiro’s relationship with her mother is reminiscent of many gay men’s relationships with their mother. “Is it because of a lack of father figure that Hiro gravitates towards masculine figures?” Nick pondered.
Alex cautioned that if we think that way, we are falling into the trap of Mochizuki’s sexist mind, of essentializing what is masculine and feminine.
Alex also pointed out how Hiro has slept with her mother’s ex-boyfriend as a form of juvenile rebellion.
Yamada and her husband’s dynamics are interesting but we were too lackluster to talk about them.
The only happy family seems to be the Vietnamese one but even Yun’s family isn’t very happy, with disputes over money. All Vietnamese are described as money-grubbing in the novel, obviously criticizing the country.
1. Konno: We were all in love with the tall, broad-shouldered Konno except for Nick. Alex loves Konno for being able to “make a vagina quiver long after its absence” as described in the novel.
2. Yun: Another contradiction occurs here: sometimes Hiro claims that Yun and she are soulmates, yet at other times, Hiro thinks Yun is child-like and beyond comprehension, which goes back to the point on racism, of never knowing the racial Other.
Timmy hates Yun for being so needy.
Yun’s returning to men is reasoned that she thinks there is no future in a lesbian relationship. (homophobia)
3. Hiro: Alex hated her that she cannot reflect on her emotions and actions.
By the end of the discussion, we felt dirty and horrible. Timmy expressed our feelings best: “After reading the book, I feel hollow inside.” Alex said, “If I knew her email address, I’d write her a hate mail.” Writing this discussion notes incenses Aaron. What a horrible, homophobic, racist, sexist book. How did such a repulsive book ever go to print in the first place? Aaron feels like vomiting now.