Picture Darrell Lum and Eric Chock starting Bamboo Ridge Press … at age 2. Terribly talented toddlers, wouldn’t you agree? Just ask Darrell; he insists this is so. Thirty years and ninety issues later, they introduced Mavis Hara to her audience at KCC last Thursday. The author of Bamboo Ridge’s latest issue, An Offering of Rice, Mavis read excerpts from her work, including the title story.
"An Offering of Rice" is about a girl who accidentally slices off the tip of her finger while working at the pineapple cannery. Even though Eric had mentioned the story in his introduction, and even though I knew what was approaching, I still cringed when Mavis read (in delight at her audience’s reaction, maybe not, I wasn’t looking because my eyes were scrunched tightly shut), "The blood-spattered pineapple slices moved down the conveyor belt. … The screaming echoed down the line, slices to chunks to crushed" (30). However, it was a later passage, a quiet scene in a laundry room between Tatsue and her father, which moved me dangerously close to tears. Otosan helps his daughter wash, rinse, and wring out clothes in the darkness, even though "a Japanese man never washed clothes" (31). In one moment, I was picturing his carpenter hands and fingernails, wrinkled and grooved, blue from rinse water … and in the next, my grandpa’s hands, wrinkled and shaking, spotted brown with age.
Before the reading, I was talking to a student who just could not identify with the people and situations in her Victorian Literature class. However, she instantly identified with and loved reading The Best of Bamboo Ridge. That night, I realized that there was a darker side to identifying with local literature, that "no distance" could be revitalizing but also overwhelming. A scene about a traditional Japanese man, not talking and not smiling but still helping his daughter with the laundry, could bring up vivid, vibrant images about my grandpa who passed away exactly a month ago.
Reading the story, I think these two sentences can explain my bittersweet identification better than my entire blog:
"Okasan taught her that rice offered to the ancestors and the gods should be smoothed and round, not triangular like the musubi humans ate because there were no corners in heaven. In Japan, they said everything in heaven was a circle." (26)
No corners in heaven.