Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Wandering Son by Shimura Takako (translated by Matt Thorn)
This basic plot description doesn't really do justice to this amazing series. To date, I have not come across any books that depict transgender youth so young, and I think this is one of the great strengths of the series because it allows the reader to focus more closely on the issue of gender identity as opposed to sexuality when so often these are mixed together. And of course, gender identity and sexuality inform and influence each other, but it's worth noting that they are not the same thing (at least, not from a queer theory critical view, something I've been studying here in graduate school land).
The stories are sparse. This isn't an action-packed manga, but I find the simplicity all the more powerful as it allows me to really contemplate the characters' lives. And even though the kids are struggling with their gender identity, this isn't an angsty drama. Well, it's not too angsty.
So far, only volumes one and two of the story have been published in English. Volume three is due out in May this year. If you get these books, I suggest you take a look at translator Matt Thorn's essays at the back of each book. In volume one, he writes a brief essay about Japanese honorifics and personal pronouns. I had no idea of the many nuances in speaking to and about people, so different from the basic dichotomous system in English. In volume two, he includes a brief essay on what it means to be transgender in modern Japan. They provide a helpful context for the stories without being overly academic (which I also appreciated here in grad land).