What I'm Reading: Where the Dead Pause and the Japanese Say Goodbye

I picked up Marie Mutsuki Mockett's book on a whim, grabbing one adult book along with my stack of Bob Staake-illustrated board books.  It looked exactly up my alley: investigating grief and loss with an eye toward the influence of culture.  Even better, it was described as being part travel-narrative, so I figured I had work reading combined with my favorite leisure reading, all in one go.

Mockett addresses her individual grief over the death of her father, while also exploring the corporate mourning in Japan after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.  I found the work she describes Buddhists priests doing in temporary shelters fascinating-- chaplaincy both similar and dissimilar to the work done in the West.  Her personal grief and pursuit of religious education felt to me very much like Eat, Pray, Love.  Both authors undertook internal work with a publisher's deadline, and the result for me in both cases seems self-conscious and too quick for deep processing.

The written images in the book are beautiful.  When Mockett describes festivals, traditions, temples, the word pictures are stunning.  It's very enjoyable, but by the end I wondered if it was colored by an outsider's idealism (Mockett is Japanese-American).

I'd recommend it, but it's not going on my resource list.

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"So keep fightin' for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't you forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin' ass and celebratin' the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was."
-Saint Molly Ivins