By Sarah Z. Sleeper
Running Wild Press 2020
Here is a brief summary of Gaijin by Sarah Z. Sleeper.
The Japanese word gaijin means "unwelcome foreigner." It's not profanity, but is sometimes a slur directed at non-Japanese people in Japan.
Lucy is a budding journalist at Northwestern University and she's obsessed with an exotic new student, Owen Ota, who becomes her romantic interest and her sensei. When he disappears without explanation, she's devastated and sets out to find him. On her three-month quest across Japan and Okinawa, she finds only snippets of the elegant culture Owen had described. Instead she faces anti-U.S. protests, menacing street thugs and sexist treatment, and she winds up at the base of Mt. Fuji, in the terrifying Suicide Forest. Will she ever find Owen? Will she be driven back to the U.S.? Gaijin is a coming-of-age story about a woman who solves a heartbreaking mystery that has altered the trajectory of her life.
The reader comes to a deeper understanding of the difference between realism and idealism when reading Gaijin. The plot is slender, but it enhances our understanding of a young woman who has a dream that she is unable to fulfill. Many of us have dreams that are unrealistic, and we come to admire how Lucy grows toward a more realistic understanding of herself as well as her understanding of Owen.
website. Like many writers, art imitates life, and she worked at a magazine in Okinawa, much like Lucy in the book. She says that she based her novel on the four years she spent in Japan, and on the challenges she faced in that country, including racism, sexism, and xenophobia.