Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Review: Japan Took the J.A.P. Out of Me by Lisa Cook

Japan Took the J.A.P
First off, I should say this title slightly offends me. I recognize it's meant to be a clever play on words but I'm not sure it's something that should ever be played on like that. But I tend to be overly sensitive about these things, so it's possible most people simply don't care.

For some reason that didn't register with me when I requested to review this book. All I saw was Japan...and I wanted to read it because I also spent a year and a half in Japan and love reading about similar experiences from different perspectives. Unfortunately, I really didn't enjoy this perspective at all.

Yes, I recognize that I was supposed to be aware that Lisa was spoiled...and so I expected some humorous tales about her adjustment to life in Japan. Unfortunately, I never really found her humor funny, or her arrogant ethnocentric mindset very forgiveable.

Lisa agrees to move to Japan with her husband the day after their wedding without really thinking about it at all. Okay I do get that she's madly in love and wanting to follow her husband around, but she's not 18, she's 29. Surely, it must have entered her mind to at least google "life in Japan"??? But if I'm to believe the way the story is told, she basically moves there without thinking about it at all, and wants to go home immediately.

Japan is not the United States this is true. And there is a lot to get used to, especially if you don't normally do your own laundry. Sometimes reading her thoughts was a reminder of all the negative things my co-workers and fellow ex-pats would say when I was in Japan. I don't know why but a lot of the things mentioned never really bugged me. I got that some Japanese people would be uncomfortable sitting next to me on the train, and that people would stare. But for all of those situations, there was always so much good to outweigh the bad.

Also, I was actually a huge fan of the public transportation. Sure, there were times I wished I could go in a car, and I was spoiled to have close Japanese friends who had a car but I think the public transportation for the most part was excellent.

So pretty much the whole book was Lisa complaining about Japan, about the mindsets and attitudes towards women, so on and so forth. But she got to travel to a lot of incredible places! It wasn't until she went to the Peace Museum in Hiroshima that she came around a little bit and I think that's a testament to just how powerful an experience that place is. I was also incredibly humbled by the atmosphere and the hope that exists here. I really wish everyone could go there.

Anyway, there's a ton of profanity and I really didn't need to know all about her and her husband's sex life. I found this account to be a pretty superficial account of Japan, but maybe a more interesting story about the first year of marriage between a former Marine and spoiled Jewish American Princess.

Anyway, I don't think Lisa ever really came to appreciate or love Japan. (as evidenced by the panic attack she had when going to a Japanese restaurant once back home) And that's sad. So I hope not too many people read this, as I do appreciate and love Japan and I think there's a lot more interesting stories and narratives about life there to be found. Despite all her negativity, though, it did make me want to go back!

Rating: 2.5/5
Things You Might Want to Know: Lots of profanity and sex
Source of Book: review copy from publisher
Publisher: Downtown Press (Simon and Schuster)



Nicole said...

I was a little surprised that the title flew. I guess maybe because she is making fun of herself but I definitely had some thoughts when I first heard it. I'm sorry to hear that she didn't develop and appreciation for the country and the culture. What a bummer that it was a complain fest and she didn't "grow".

Deborah said...

yeah the title was the main reason why i didn't request this one to review. i think i would probably have the same feelings you did if i had had it. wise decision.

Kristen said...

I've been hopping around seeing what other people thought about the book and everyone else (besides you and me) so far seems to think she had this great and abiding love for Japan and the Japanese. I was so grateful to see that you disagree with this as I never did see it either, thinking she hadn't enjoyed her time there, never tried to open up to the people, and never accepted that the culture was different but equal to her own. I hate when I start to second guess my own reading so thank you for helping validate it. :-) I do think I liked the book more than you did overall but I did think it was just fine and not wonderful.

Beth F said...

JAP for Jewish American Princess is really quite offensive. I wouldn't have read this title, but I understand why you gave it a try. It's sad that the book simply perpetuated the stereotypes of Jewish women and Americans abroad.

bermudaonion said...

I was 33 when we moved to France and we didn't give it much thought before we went. There are some things that are difficult to adjust to when you live in another society, but you have to just accept that things are different, not necessarily worse or better. We loved the public transportation in France, so I'm with you on that. This book sounds like a lot of whining, so I think I'll skip it.

Paula Krapf said...

I did a double take when I saw the title; I may be sensitive to it because I heard a lot of that phrase growing up, and I see no need to perpetuate the stereotype. It's too bad that the book doesn't seem to rise above the title (or does the title give away the fact that she doesn't really change?) I appreciate your review though, because it helped me figure out if this book would interest me. I prefer books that show appreciation for other cultures.

Diane said...

Thanks for your honest review; always appreciated.

Ti said...

The title really turns me off. I've seen it off and on lately and each time I see it I want to send an email to the publisher.

Pam said...

As Nicole said, I was surprised to see the title. Not sur I'd pick this one up, even passing by the back cover description.

Beth Kephart said...

I think I would have stood with you on this one.

heidenkind said...

I think the title sounds like a very bad joke made by someone who wouldn't bother to consider anyone else's viewpoint besides their own. And it sounds like the book pretty much carries through on that impression.

Maybe you should write a book about your experiences in Japan!

Lisa said...

Ouch! You've talked me out of it.

Julie said...

How ironic,my sentiments were the same as others have expressed. I WAS not impressed at all with the title-turned me right off


Chris said...

Like others said, the title doesn't seem like a good idea. I already get a bad vibe. The publishers should have re-thought that one.

Jenny Girl said...

What a Bummer?! I would have done the same thing. See Japan and that's it.
Shamw that the author couldn't accept the country for what it is and not judge. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but there is no need to put down an entire country and culture. Oh well. When you find a good book about Japanese culture let me know.

caite said...

the J.A.P..I guess some people think is is ok...even funny... to use terms like that about yourself. I don't, which would set me up to have a problem with this book from the get-go.

Meg said...

Meh -- sounds very whiny! I'm sure I would agree with your perspectives... and you lived in Japan for a year and a half?! Where have I been that I didn't know this? Going to cull through your archives and see what I can find :) I live for travel!

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