Co-Artistic Director Kimiko Guthrie’s debut novel is on its way:
Growing up, I always thought “Camp” was a summer camp my and other Japanese families had been allowed to attend for free; my family spoke about memories of their WWII internment with a confusing lightness. I spent much of my adulthood looking for a novel that captured my own experience growing up with vague hints of this distant, repressed trauma peeping in now and then. But all the novels I found on the subject, however poignant, seemed to package the story mostly in the past–a chapter of history that we must not forget, but that is more or less over. Block Seventeen is my attempt at connecting themes of Camp to today’s surveillance-frenzied, technology-saturated world.
When a Japanese-American pregnant mother stoops over a bathtub and burns a small statue of Jizo Bodhisatva—a deity that’s said to protect the spirits of babies—on leaving for an internment camp during WWII, a dark momentum is set in motion. Fast forward to 2011 in the San Francisco Bay Area, where we meet Akiko “Jane” Thompson, an unemployed, thirtysomething, half-Japanese/half-Caucasian woman as she is confounded by a series of disturbing mysteries: Why won’t the neighbor’s baby, whom she’s never seen, stop crying? Why is her boyfriend, who works for the Transportation Security Administration, suddenly obsessed, to the point of paranoia, with government surveillance? And why can she only find her mother online, in the elusive world of social media?
Inspired by Japanese folklore, Haruki Murakami’s intermingling of the mundane and the supernatural, and Kazuo Ishiguro’s play between trauma and denial, Block Seventeen explores memory, the ambivalences of modern technology and its effect on the fragility of human relationships, as well as the difficulties of distinguishing fact from fiction in the 21st century.