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September 04, 2013

Self-Published Book of the Week: Encounter With Japan: An Adventure in Love

Photo(1)So in case you didn't already know, it is now relatively cheap and simple to publish your own book. Here at Seven Days, we receive the fruits of that tech shift: self-published books from fellow Vermonters. Lots and lots and lots. Indeed, each year we receive more.

Do we review them in our pages? Rarely; it takes a very special book to sway us. But we'd like to recognize more writers' efforts, and we think local readers might be curious about what their neighbors are self-publishing. This blog feature may also showcase books from small or academic publishers that we can't cover in the paper.

Before submitting your own book, please see the lengthy disclaimer below!

The Book: Encounter With Japan: An Adventure in Love by Adelaide E. Katz, PhD, and Susan Katz Saitoh. Paperback, 164 pages with full-color illustrations. $20.

What's It About?

How many people have sat at a dying loved one's bedside and wished they could tell the world that person's story? Susan Katz Saitoh does that with this book. Actually, she leaves most of the actual telling to her late mother, Adelaide Katz, a fine writer who left behind journals, poems and more.

The book focuses on a particularly notable time in Katz's life: In 1960, she won a trip to Kyoto, Japan, to meet her pen pal, a widow named Suzue Matsubara.

Just 15 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it wasn't the best time for U.S.-Japanese relations, but the articulate 35-year-old housewife won over both the American press and her hosts. Life magazine and various newspapers wrote about her trip. The spirited Katz became a cultural ambassador of sorts.

Saitoh — who's married to a Japanese man — gives us a mini-bio of her mom and historical context, then lets "Addie" speak through her travel journals and other writing.

The book includes color photos of objects and places mentioned in the journal. In an attractive section called "The Illustrated Poems," Saitoh has paired her mom's haiku-like verses with vintage photos and colorful swaths of patterned Japanese fabric (pictured).

PhotoHere's a sample:

They said,
"Small nation, small gardens, small people."
I said,
"Small visitor, small world."

We say: This book's easy to pick up and read — nicely produced and edited. Katz is a likable narrator, and many readers will come to share her daughter's belief that her story deserves an audience.

Where to Get It: On Saitoh's website, at both locations of Phoenix Books and at the Flying Pig in Shelburne.

And Now, My Big Fat Honking Necessary Disclaimer:

1. These blog posts are not "reviews." I have not read these books in their entirety, and my write-ups should not be taken as endorsements. Buyer beware: If a book interests you, always browse or download a sample first. 

2. No one who sends me a book is guaranteed a write-up here. When I select books, I will look for competent, edited prose; angles that might interest our readers; and general professionalism. I reserve the right not to feature books for any reason, including personal taste. (For instance, I tend not to be a fan of books primarily intended to promote a political or religious agenda. I prefer fiction to poetry. I don't have much to say about picture books.)

3. If you want to know whether I might feature your book, email a description and the first 10 pages to [email protected]. If I say I'm interested, send me a hard copy. While I will consider e-books, hard copies make nice, tangible reminders and are more likely to be featured. Be aware that I have a big backlog of books and little time to read them.

4. Do not send me any book you haven't published; I can't give advice on seeking trade publication. You can find query feedback in the Share Your Work forum here and book promotion advice here.

5. Only books by current Vermonters (and those right on our borders) are eligible. Ex-Vermonters and Vermont natives who live elsewhere, please query your local newspaper/blog instead.

6. I use the term "self-publishing" because that's what it is, and in my mind there's no stigma attached to the term. Please do not ask me to switch to "indie publishing," which is easily confused with the industry term for publishing outside the Big Five.


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