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New ebooks by ARUDOU Debito

  • Book IN APPROPRIATE: A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan
  • Now on Amazon Kindle and Barnes&Noble NOOK: Debito’s eBook novel “IN APPROPRIATE”, on child abductions after divorce in Japan: $9.99

    Posted by arudou debito on April 12th, 2013

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    Hi Blog. Following up on my last blog post about JAPANESE ONLY: Otaru Onsens Case coming out as a special edition eBook, I am pleased to announce that my nonfiction novel, “IN APPROPRIATE: A Novel of Culture, Kidnapping, and Revenge in Modern Japan“, is now downloadable from Amazons worldwide and Barnes & Noble as a Kindle or NOOK eBook. Price: $9.99.

    ELECTRONIC DOWNLOAD FROM AMAZON.COM WORLDWIDE IN KINDLE FORMAT (at USD$9.99)

    ELECTRONIC DOWNLOAD FROM BARNES&NOBLE.COM IN NOOK FORMAT (at USD$10.00)

    In Appropriate cover

    My first published foray into fiction, IN APPROPRIATE is a thriller about child abductions in Japan after divorce — where one parent loses all custody and access in Japan regardless of nationality. It is an amalgam of several actual cases of child abduction framed on a fictional character, Gary, an American who falls for a Japanese girl in college, then follows her back to Japan during its Bubble Era aftermath. Not only does IN APPROPRIATE chart the progress of Gary’s assimilation into Japanese society, it also marks the slow but steady decline of fortunes for everyone in Japan as the economy sours and opportunities shrink. Gary also realizes that he has married into an elite Japanese family whose priorities regarding his children’s future do not match his, and he eventually realizes that he will have to do something drastic to save them.

    Praise from readers of IN APPROPRIATE has been very positive. Only yesterday I got this feedback:

    “Just bought online and finished reading your Kindle book ‘IN APPROPRIATE.’ Pretty good short read. You should come up with another using Gary and where he left off in Thailand. I especially liked it being a short read that I could finish in one sitting. I enjoyed your first fiction book and hope you come out with another.”

    Other readers might concur:

    “ARUDOU Debito’s depiction of how quickly life gets turned upside down by the crazy family rules in Japan will do more than just grab your attention. It will make you cry at the strange and deplorable tale of love lost in Japan. IN APPROPRIATE sheds necessary light on the twisted norms and laws in Japan that not only allow, but also encourage parents to abduct their children from one another. A must-read primer on the issue.”Eric Kalmus, Children’s Rights Network Japan (www.crnjapan.net), and Left-Behind Parent.

    “IN APPROPRIATE by ARUDOU Debito is a work of fiction, full of fact… I read the book twice; once to check the facts and once to feel the emotions. There is no other way to describe this but say that on both fronts, the book hits home. Many people reading this will not believe it, but as somebody that has ‘been there and done that”‘ I can honestly say this is one of the most powerful books I have ever read… If an inside, in-depth view of Japan is what you are after, then this book is for you.”John Evans, Left-Behind Parent.

    “I am not a left-behind parent but I am a Japan Veteran. I first went to Japan planning to spend a year and in the end spent 7 years of my life there. I married a Japanese, have two kids, and now live back in my home country with my wife and kids. Reading through Gary’s early experiences with Japan and the culture was like reading my own diary. Thankfully the second half of the book wasn’t. The book is engaging, informative, and authentic. I highly recommend IN APPROPRIATE. At the end I wanted more. Some will take that as a criticism but it’s because I began to care about some of the characters and I wanted to know more. Without a doubt the book will appeal more to us Japanophiles, but a good story is a good story. I’ve read a lot of Japan-centric fiction, both good and bad. I classify this as great, and look forward to future fictional works by Debito.”Steve Fylypchuk

    More information, reviews, and ordering details at http://www.debito.org/inappropriate.html.

    ELECTRONIC DOWNLOAD FROM AMAZON.COM WORLDWIDE IN KINDLE FORMAT (at USD$9.99)

    ELECTRONIC DOWNLOAD FROM BARNES&NOBLE.COM IN NOOK FORMAT (at USD$10.00)

    Sample first chapter readable for free at these outlets as well.

    Thanks for reading Debito.org, and if you like what you read here, consider supporting the site by downloading a copy of IN APPROPRIATE and/or JAPANESE ONLY.  You get the same good read you get here, and both are now very affordably priced at $9.99 or local currency equivalent anywhere in the world.  Arudou Debito

    5 Responses to “Now on Amazon Kindle and Barnes&Noble NOOK: Debito’s eBook novel “IN APPROPRIATE”, on child abductions after divorce in Japan: $9.99”

    1. debito Says:

      Debito here. Scott Urista is back online with a hatchet review of IN APPROPRIATE to try to sabotage my sales and my livelihood.

      This despite having said his piece in 2011 on online forums before, including Tepido. It seems now with every edition he’ll make his appearance and spew for motivations unknown. I have no idea what he has against me or his book, especially since we had private correspondence two years ago about the issues he had with IN APPROPRIATE, and apparently reached a detente. But no. I’ll post his lengthy one-star review that appeared on Amazon.com today immediately below. Then I’ll post my response to it in the next comment below.

      I usually ignore trolls and unreasonable critics, but I’m responding because Mr. Urista’s review is credible-sounding sophistry to anyone who hasn’t read the book. At least he has the decency to use his real name, which I respect, but the bottom line is that he is still trying to have a negative impact upon my livelihood (even though I am not in any way trying to affect his), and even despite reasoning with him, he’s still going after me. Give it a rest, Scott: Surely you have better things to do other than repeatedly try to sabotage other people’s lives. Debito

      ======================
      1.0 out of 5 stars Easy writing = hard reading, April 12, 2013
      By S. Urista – See all my reviews
      This review is from: In Appropriate: A novel of culture, kidnapping, and revenge in modern Japan (Kindle Edition)

      Does the author matter?

      This was the primary question I struggled with while writing this review of In Appropriate, the first work of fiction from Debito Arudou. The author will be well-known to readers of his regular Just Be Cause columns in an independent English daily in Japan. A US-born, naturalized Japanese citizen, Arudou was formerly an associate professor teaching English to Japanese students at a small private university in Hokkaido; he is now in Hawaii for research purposes.

      Arudou is more well-known for his role of social activist, fighting for equal rights of non-Japanese living in Japan. Indeed, the first of Arudou’s two non-fiction books was devoted solely to his first and largest case, the Otaru onsen case (Japanese Only: The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan). The book details Arudou’s successful lawsuit against a Hokkaido onsen after being denied entry based on his foreign appearance. His second non-fiction book was an in-depth handbook for newcomers to Japan (Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan, co-authored with Akira Higuchi). In Appropriate is Arudou’s first work of fiction.

      Certainly with non-fiction writing, readers reasonably want to know more about the author. Has he or she written anything else? What are the author’s overall views on the subject? Is the author an expert in the field? Who is paying for the work? What possible bias might be involved? All reasonable questions that at first glance would not seem to apply to fiction. Surely in a work of fiction, the story should be allowed to stand on its own.

      And yet, we are always fascinated with the personal lives of authors and writers and singers. This goes beyond just the Entertainment Tonight-esque Hollywood gossip of who’s dating who. Fans love reading slice-of-life stories about their favorite author or actor; we want to dig deeper, to unravel what experiences and aspects of the author’s life made their way into our favorite book, our favorite song, our favorite painting.

      In the case of non-fiction, one could say that wanting to know more about the author is reasonable, perhaps even necessary, to judge the book’s objectivity, authenticity, and accuracy. With fiction, one could argue that the author is – while perhaps of great interest to fans – ultimately irrelevant to the quality of the story.

      This, however, is where I ran into a problem. Arudou does clearly state that this is a work of fiction. However, he also goes to great lengths to stress that the story and historical events as portrayed in the book are authentic and accurate (based on real events, including from his own personal experience). Further, the end of the book includes a couple of pages devoted to his website, debito.org, which primarily acts as the headquarters for his activist work. It was this specific and deliberate blurring of the line between the book as a simple work of fiction and the book as a tool in promoting the author’s activist role that forced me to take a closer look at the book and the story.

      The book tells the tale of Gary Schmidt, a small-town boy from Georgia. Gary begins dating a Japanese exchange student at his local community college and eventually moves to Japan with her after she gets pregnant. At first, all appears to go well: he finds lucrative work as an English teacher, his wife has a second child, he is able to open up his own English conversation school, and he even takes on Japanese citizenship. However, his work gradually dries up in tandem with Japan’s slow economic post-Bubble decline. Facing rising tensions with his conservative father-in-law and increasingly dour work prospects, Gary decides to move back to the US. The rest of the book details the opposition to this plan from his wife’s family and resulting acrimonious divorce, and culminates with his attempt at abducting his children back to the US.

      The story of course bears no small resemblance to the recent widely reported Chris Savoie child abduction case. Chris Savoie was arrested in Japan in 2009 on suspicion of kidnapping while trying to enter the US consulate with his children after his ex-wife (in violation of a US court order) returned to Japan with the children. There are numerous similarities: Both Savoie and Gary are southern US-born, naturalized Japanese citizens. Both fathers go to Japan in an attempt to bring their children back to the US. Both are arrested trying to enter the US consulate in Fukuoka with their children.

      Certainly child abduction is no trivial matter, and Arudou’s plot holds great promise. There was enormous potential for a deep, moving portrait of how families cope with international marriages and divorces. Sadly, In Appropriate suffers on a number of levels.

      Firstly, the book is littered with errors and inconsistencies. Arudou notes that he found writing fiction ‘easy’, and says that he wrote the entire book in less than a week. Unfortunately, it shows: the book is badly in need of an editor (and as is often said: easy writing makes for damn hard reading). At various times in the book the main character forgets how old he is, forgets that he’s never been to Tokyo, and forgets how many times he’s made the transpacific flight (once). Many of the factual errors are childishly basic that could have been avoided with the most casual of fact-checking.

      Other errors are more problematic: Gary takes on Japanese citizenship because of a ‘legal requirement to have a Japanese on the board of directors’ of the eikaiwa school he is setting up. But this is completely wrong; the only requirement is that at least one of the directors must have an address in, and be a resident of, Japan. If that person is a foreigner, there are some mild restrictions on visa status, but no restrictions if your visa does not restrict your work activity.

      Neither does the story gain many points in authenticity. Upon arriving in Japan, Gary finds a job teaching English within three days and within a year is making $10,000 a month. While English teachers were no doubt making reasonably good money even in the early post-Bubble days – particularly given the lack of experience or actual skill needed to land an eikaiwa job – it is a massive stretch to suggest that English teachers were raking in four times the national average less than year after arriving. This high English teacher salary is used to establish Gary’s credentials as an ‘entrepreneur’ with ‘prodigious business initiative’, which in turn is used by Gary to justify his decision to return to the US, yet even ignoring the fantasy-land income, it hard to see how renting a room to talk in English to Japanese housewives equates to being an ‘entrepreneur’.

      But by far the biggest problem with In Appropriate ties in to the issue of separating the author from the story. As an activist, Arudou fights for equal treatment for all in Japan, yet In Appropriate is shockingly one-sided and heavy-handed in the treatment of Japan and the Japanese characters. In fact, it is no stretch to say that there isn’t a remotely likable Japanese character in the book; the Japanese men are sinister, mean-spirited racists, Japanese women alternate back and forth between being passive robots and sex maniacs.

      It is almost impossible to like the main character: Gary starts out a red-neck racist – he never learned French or Spanish in high school ‘because he has no use for frog or beaner talk’. His main initial interest in the Japanese exchange students is a bet with his other red-neck friends (‘He had plenty of T&A in town and environs, but had never tapped Asian’ ‘Fifty bucks went to the first person to produce Japanese panties, verifiably scented with poon tang’).

      Normally, this would set us up for a nice development arch: How dating a foreigner and living overseas shapes him, helps him grow as a person, helps him see the good and bad in his new and native country, while also coming to understand his own strengths and weaknesses. That doesn’t happen here; there is no soul-searching, no self-discovery. The story essentially starts and ends with the main character chasing Asian skirt, a flat, one-dimensional character. There was enormous potential to explore any number of fascinating issues. Most interesting to me would have been what goes into the decision to take on the nationality of another country; I was very disappointed to see this topic get such casual treatment.

      Even more troublesome was the book’s main subject: child abduction. The problem is that it was almost impossible to work up any sympathy for Gary and his plight. In the book, Gary’s children have never set foot outside of Japan. They know no life other than in Japan, yet Gary – after making no real attempt to at least get visitation rights following his divorce – sees no problem with literally abducting the children and running away to the US, a foreign land where his children had never lived, knew nobody, and didn’t speak a word of the language.

      Even allowing for this as the plot in a work of fiction, it would have been much better if Gary had at least agonized over the moral issues involved. Gary never even thinks about the fact that he’s completely cutting off the children from their mother, for instance. Do two wrongs make a right? Is he really ‘rescuing’ his children from an unbearable situation? As a single dad in a country he’s never set foot in as an adult, as a college drop out and only 15 years as an English teacher on his resume, will his children really be better of in the US? None of this is mentioned or discussed; instead, Gary rationalizes his decision by saying that he’s ‘ready to be SuperDad’, rescuing his children from the ‘racist, oppressive atmosphere’.

      Herein lies the second major problem: by writing in third-person omniscient, the narrator has a god-like perspective, and is thus able to apply reasons and motives to every person for every action. The result is that Gary comes across as always being pure and noble in his motives, while the motive for every single Japanese character is evil and racist, such as when Gary’s wife objects to his idea of moving back to the US ‘because there are guns and black people’.

      To make matters worse, for a book this short – only 140-odd pages – far too much time is spent on endless background information on the economy, the eikaiwa system, Japan’s penal code. If this much background detail was going to be given, the book needed to be much, much longer to fully flesh out the Japanese characters and make them a bit more human. Surely a father can not like the idea of his daughter marrying some unemployed college drop-out American who doesn’t speak a word of Japanese without being racist. Certainly a wife can be against the idea of relocating to a country she barely knows and where her husband’s work prospects are dim at best without being racist or irrational.

      The story cries for some nuance and shape, but sadly the characters never even develop beyond cardboard cut-outs of stereotypes. And the sad truth is that Gary never develops into a likable person, mainly because we see nothing in the book that suggests that he works at being a good father, husband, or son-in-law. Gary barely remembers his mother-in-law’s name. When work is slow at the eikaiwa school for days on end, Gary spends the time surfing the net and hooking up with friends back home, even as he notes that he is missing his son’s and daughter’s childhood. Despite the father-in-law keeping Gary’s eikaiwa school afloat with frequent cash infusions, we see no signs that Gary is appreciative or that he realizes that perhaps his ‘prodigious business initiative’ wasn’t quite as prodigious as he thought.

      The book is not without its high points. The plot device itself is deftly handled; the present day plot is neatly intertwined with back-story material. There are sections that are quite well-written; Gary’s frantic dash to the Fukuoka consulate was tight, taut writing with excellent pace – regardless of what you thought about Gary’s motives and whether he was morally in the right or not, no father could read that section without getting a lump in the throat.

      Sadly, these sections are the exception. Rather than write in fine nuances and grays, it is unfortunate that Arudou chose to write with a sledgehammer instead, because there is definitely an interesting story lurking underneath. The crash of the bubble economy, the Kobe earthquake and Aum Shinrikyo sarin attack, the Asia Financial Crisis and crash of Yamaichi, PM Koizumi and (short-lived, alas) signs that Japan’s younger population might grow an interest in politics….the last 20-odd years would make for a fascinating backdrop for a story on the internationalization of Japan and what it means for families and children of international marriages.

      Instead, I suspect that Arudou’s focus was not on the plot or character development, but instead was on trying to make points already spelled out in ample detail on his website. As a result, In Appropriate comes across as an overly mean-spirited and one-sided affair that doesn’t really work as fiction, and certainly goes against Arudou’s activist mantra of ‘fair treatment’.

      Here’s hoping he spends more than four days writing his next work of fiction.
      ENDS

    2. debito Says:

      Debito’s response to Scott Urista:

      Does the reviewer matter? Mr. Urista keeps coming on to whatever review forum he can find this book on to deliver yet another (thorough, but flawed; see below) review with every new edition (remember, this book came out in 2011, but here he is again afresh in 2013), in a clear attempt to hinder sales of the book. One wonders why he (and the cabal of Internet bloggers who make it a life mission to denigrate anything written by me; at least Mr. Urista uses his real name) have such a need to pick on a piece of writing with such verve? (Note it’s the only review he’s written for any book thus far on Amazon.)

      No doubt he’ll bring the cabal with him, but since his review is so thorough as to look authoritative, I will answer a few things in specific in this limited space:

      First of all, he seems fixated less on the work itself, more on who wrote it (as it is his “primary question”), devoting a full quarter of his review just on reviewing me as a person (“we are always fascinated with the personal lives of authors and writers and singers”). That’s flattering if he’s a biographer, and he’s writing a well-researched biography of a life. But this book is not a biography of the author. Thus he’s playing the man, not the ball, in the “review”, obscuring the larger point IN APPROPRIATE is trying to address: the issue of child abductions after divorce in Japan.

      Second, he tries to make the book seem twee or unworthy of merit because, inter alia, it was written in four days. (It wasn’t; and anyway, would he say the same about other books that came out quickly, like, oh, FRANKENSTEIN?) Moreover, regarding its length: It’s written as a thriller, meaning crisp and taut. It seems that Mr. Urista takes the measure of a book by the kilogram.

      Third, about some the alleged errors: Yes, there IS in fact a legal requirement to have a Japanese on the board of directors of an eikaiwa school, also mentioned in our other book, “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants to Japan” in case he might someday choose to do some research. This requirement has forced at least two of my foreign business entrepreneurial associates out of business in, for example, Sapporo. That said, it is not always enforced (it wasn’t in the case of other business associates I knew in, say, Tokyo, but the further you get from Tokyo, the more centralized the enforcement seems to become). Further, it WAS possible to make $10,000 a month teaching English conversation during the Bubble Years and slightly beyond. I was there to see it. (And I doubt many actual entrepreneurs would agree with Mr. Urista’s assessment of Gary’s entrepreneurism – after all, small or not, you’ve gotta start somewhere!)

      As for the characterizations, this story was told from Gary’s point of view (he is in every scene, and no scene in the book takes place without him in it and his take on it). This is by definition why everyone around Gary is so inscrutable and one-dimensional – he is just drifting through life and never getting a full handle on much. For all his alleged business sense, Gary is not a very perceptive person (hence his laddish, off-putting background story), and although he is engaging in self-puffery (he’s in fact making money from charisma, not actual saleable skills, as was pointed out by Gary’s not-evil father-in-law), he does try to do the right thing but keeps failing miserably because he’s unlucky; and dense. He is NOT a sympathetic character (even I didn’t like him, and I’m the author): He’s a loser, and he doesn’t even grow all that much throughout the book. But Mr. Urista (with whom I’ve corresponded on these points before in private two years ago; he seemed to understand this when I explained it all to him before) keeps bouncing back here again with a poison pen to rehash the same old points in a hackneyed “review”.

      A more perceptive reviewer might have seen these things for themselves. Other readers have. But I don’t think Mr. Urista (who is not a book reviewer by trade) really understands the craft of writing or of characterization (though he might try establishing credibility through terms like “third-person omniscient”). He’s too blinded by what he thinks about the author to see through to what the author’s work is trying to say. That’s fatal for any reviewer, and that’s why I’ve written this review of the reviewer back.

      I hope Mr. Urista will someday mature and outgrow his need for, say, sympathetic characters and clean resolutions. Real life is not like that, and this book is probably closer to real life (as it is based on many Left-Behind Parents’ experiences) than Mr. Urista (who has probably not experienced anything nearly as traumatic as having his children taken from him due to divorce) would care to admit. Better for him to keep venting a personal dislike for an author on Amazon, and cloak it in what appears to be an honest-sounding review. Better for him to try to sabotage the sales of this book because the issue is just too discomfiting for him to bear. May Mr. Urista never go through the things that Gary Schmidt does through in IN APPROPRIATE. If he does, I bet he’ll write a much different review.
      ENDS

    3. snowman Says:

      Debito, some months ago I asked you about when your books would be coming out in Kindle form but you didn’t know when. Glad to see 2 of your books have now been give the Kindle treatment! I shall “grab” both books forthwith. And don’t let the critics get yer down!

      – Thanks!

    4. Jim Di Griz Says:

      Debito,

      Anyone who can stomach the first paragraph of Scott’s veritable wall of turgid prose will undoubtedly recognize it for what it is; a venomous personal grudge driven attack (thinly) veiled as a clumsy attempt at pretentious literary critique.
      He has (as you quite rightly state above) played the man, and not the ball, and that is blatantly obvious, leaving the reader with only one conclusion; ‘What’s this guys beef’?

      Debito, the bottom line is this; How many people have paid to read your book? How many people will bother to read Scott’s ‘break-up letter’ for free?

    5. Todd Says:

      I would stop acknowledging them; your works are much bigger than them. Their works are nothing but smoke and mirrors to cause more bewilderment and confusion. If I were to come to them after having an incident or experience here, they would twist it to be me, the gaijins fault. No need to pay mind to such fools, only fools follow them or the uninformed.

      “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”

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