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About this book
- Winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book (Caribbean and Canadian Region)!
- Co-winner of the Canada-Japan Book Award!
Hiromi Goto’s debut novel has become a Canadian classic. It is a powerful narrative of three generations of Japanese Canadian women on the Canadian prairies.
Funny, scandalous, and melancholic, this superlative narrative is filled with echoes and retellings, memories and Japanese folk tales. From The Tale of Genji to the Calgary Stampede, from sharing of recipes to hitchhiking the Trans-Canada highway, it weaves a story that slides between histories, countries, and desire. It is a timeless exploration of immigration and belonging.
This twentieth anniversary reprinting of the landmark novel includes an Afterword by Larissa Lai (When Fox is a Thousand, Salt Fish Girl) and an interview with the author.
Excerpt from Chorus of Mushrooms
We lie in bed, listen to the click of blinds, watch a thin thread of dusty cobweb weave back and forth, back and forth, in the waves of air we cannot see. The blankets and sheet are a heap at the foot of the bed, and we are warm only where skin is touching skin. My shoulder, my arm, the swell of my hip. The curve of my thigh. Lean lightly into you. My fingertips are icy, but I am too comfortable to move. To bother getting up and arrange the blankets. I only want to savour the quiet of skin on skin. The murmur of our blood beneath our surface touch. Our breathing unconsciously falls into a pattern, follows the movement of the strand of cobweb that weaves above our heads. You lift your hand to rest its weight, the palm rough, just beneath my breast.
“Will you tell me a story?” you ask. Eyes on the strand of dust.
“Will you tell me a story about your Obāchan?”
“Yes,” I close my eyes and breathe deeply. Slowly.
“Will you tell me a true story?” you ask, with unconscious longing.
“A lot of people ask that. Have you ever noticed?” I roll onto my side. Prop my elbow and rest my chin, my cheek, into the curve of my hand. “It’s like people want to hear a story, and then, after they’re done with it, they can stick the story back to where it came from. You know?”
“Not really,” you say, and slide a little lower, so that your head is nestled beneath my chin. Your face in my neck. “But will you still tell me?”
“Sure, but bear with my language, won’t you? My Japanese isn’t as good as my English, and you might not get everything I say. But that doesn’t mean the story’s not there to understand. Wakatte kureru kashira? Can you listen before you hear?”
“Trust me,” you say.
I pause. Take a deep breath, then spiral into sound.
“Here’s a true story.”
Mukāshi, mukāshi, ōmukashi …
“Hiromi Goto expertly layers the experiences of a Japanese immigrant woman, her emotionally estranged daughter and her beloved granddaughter into a complex fabric and compelling story.”
“Such a love for words is evident in Chorus of Mushrooms, which contains passages of breathtaking beauty.”
“Hiromi Goto, a Japanese-Canadian writer, has written a masterpiece of our times … The readability of the text is attributable to the author’s craftsmanship, and one feels like reading it over and over again.”
“Not only is Goto’s language precise and evocative, she has crafted a complex and poetic text that weaves realities and mysteries into a subtle pattern.”
"[a]n undeniably important novel." full review
"Through these three women, we see how culture trickles away as one adapts to a different culture and/or lifestyle. And yet, Hiromi Goto asserts that culture never truly disappears. It is always there, lurking beneath our nails." full review