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Harmless Like You: A Novel af Rowan Hisayo…
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Harmless Like You: A Novel (udgave 2017)

af Rowan Hisayo Buchanan (Forfatter), P. J. Ochlan (Fortæller), Emily Woo Zeller (Fortæller), a division of Recorded Books HighBridge (Publisher)

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
1774154,719 (3.67)2
'"This brilliant debut novel by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan is cause for celebration."--Lorrie Moore. Written in startlingly beautiful prose, Harmless Like You is set across New York, Berlin, and Connecticut, following Yuki Oyama, a Japanese girl fighting to make it as an artist, and Yuki's son Jay who, as an adult in the present day, is forced to confront the mother who abandoned him when he was only two years old. The novel opens when Yuki is sixteen and her father is posted back to Japan. Though she and her family have been living as outsiders in New York City, Yuki opts to stay, intoxicated by her friendship with the beautiful aspiring model Odile, the energy of the city, and her desire to become an artist. But when she becomes involved with an older man and the relationship turns destructive, Yuki's life is unmoored. Harmless Like You is a suspenseful novel about the complexities of identity, art, adolescent friendships, and familial bonds, which asks--and ultimately answers--how does a mother desert her son?" --… (mere)
Medlem:ktadsen
Titel:Harmless Like You: A Novel
Forfattere:Rowan Hisayo Buchanan (Forfatter)
Andre forfattere:P. J. Ochlan (Fortæller), Emily Woo Zeller (Fortæller), a division of Recorded Books HighBridge (Publisher)
Info:HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books (2017)
Samlinger:Dit bibliotek, Skal læses
Vurdering:
Nøgleord:Ingen

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Harmless Like You af Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

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What makes a person an artist? What motivates a young woman to become one? How much does a sense of being on the periphery--on the outside looking in, so to speak--have to do with it? Does one gain identity through making art, or is a strong sense of self a prerequisite for making it? Is an artist's (or would-be artist's) personal identity generally stronger or weaker than than that of a person without artistic ambitions? Can you be a visual artist if you are not particularly observant or aware? These are some of the many questions Rowan Hisayo Buchanan's debut novel raised for me.

HARMLESS LIKE YOU begins in Berlin. Brooklyn art dealer and gallery owner, Jay Eaves, has traveled there to notify aging artist Yukiko "Yuki" Oyama that her husband Edison Eaves has recently died and left Yuki the house in Connecticut. (Kindness can kill a person. Edison swerved to avoid killing a deer and lost his own life--but Jay leaves this detail out.) Yuki just needs to sign for the deeds. Jay will facilitate the sale of the house, should she desire that. But where is her son? Yukiko asks him. Jay, it turns out, is that son, and this is their first meeting in the 33 years since Yuki fled the family home.

HARMLESS LIKE YOU proceeds to tell, in alternating segments, the backstories of Yuki and her son. Yuki's narrative is the main one. It unfolds in the detached third person, beginning when she is sixteen. Jay's sections, which are shorter, are told in the first person and focus on the months leading up to his trip to Berlin, including the birth of his daughter and his father's accidental death. The author's decisions about point of view are telling. Both characters are remarkably unlikable, but Jay at least appears to have a self to speak from; Yuki, maybe not.

When Yuki's story proper begins, she has been living in New York for ten years with her parents. Her father is a rather stern Japanese-American businessman who, having spent part of his Second-World-War childhood in a Japanese-American internment camp, now identifies as Japanese, not American. Her mother is a traditional Japanese homemaker. The war has left its mark on her as well; she appears to suffer from PTSD. Yuki attends an American high school where she is a friendless, indifferent student. Her father hopes that she will become a doctor, but she dreams of being a visual artist, an idea which horrifies her parents. Through works of art, she believes, she can leave a lasting record of herself. "People would look at them and recognize not her flat face or limp hair, but her true self, the Yuki behind the pupils. The Yuki who was the see-er not the seen." ( p. 170) She has to downplay this goal in order to get her father to let her stay on in America when his company calls him back to Japan.

Early sections of the novel focus on Yuki's strange relationship with the amoral Odile, who is rumoured to have been expelled from a ballet school after an affair with a teacher. Odile "befriends" Yuki on a fire escape where both outcasts seek refuge during lunch break at school. She quickly introduces Yuki to her favourite pastime: happy-hour pickup and pickpocketing at local bars. On one of these outings, both girls meet males who will be pivotal in their lives. One will encourage Odile to pursue a modelling career (at a price); the other will, apparently selflessly, encourage Yuki in her art. For a time, Yuki lives with Odile and her mother, Lillian, a writer of cheesy romances. After Odile leaves home for a modelling career, however, Yuki quits school to work as a receptionist at a newspaper, eventually moving in with an older, abusive newspaper journalist (Lillian's boyfriend). The author dedicates considerable time to exploring this classic domestic abuse situation and Yuki 's efforts at making art in the midst of it. Yuki will go on to marry her kind friend, Edison (a successful architect), but it is not so much the stereotypical married life in the suburbs that oppresses her as Yuki's own internal dysfunction-- exacerbated by post-partum depression. She cannot thrive in a supportive environment.

Buchanan's novel is an unusual concoction. The cover image alone (a fairly conventional portrait of a young Asian girl whose eyes are obscured by a splotch of indigo paint) suggests that the reader will encounter a protagonist who feels herself to be anonymous, a nonentity. The angry streak of dark paint across an otherwise orderly painting also hints at the disruptive, even violent, impulse to self-sabotage that characterizes the central figure. In short, HARMLESS LIKE YOU reads like A PORTRAIT OF THE (FAILED) ARTIST AS A DEPRESSED YOUNG WOMAN. Though rich and well-written with much to puzzle over, Buchanan's novel is unrelentingly sordid and bleak.

Towards the end of the book when Jay is reunited with his mother in Berlin, the two bond in an extremely disturbing scene that involves small animals. That scene and much of the imagery employed by the author made this book an uncomfortable read for me. Early in the novel, Yuki attends an art exhibit which includes an installation comprised of a pile of dirt, leaves, and worms glistening under the white lights. The worms turn out not to be earthworms, but maggots "the colour of smokers' eyeballs: yellow-white and glossy with a sick sort of life." (page 70) The daytime sky is once described as "mucus yellow"; a pastrami sandwich "oozes cheese like pus," and sex is always a four-letter word. I could go on . . .

Although I found the novel slow to get started and the characters unsympathetic and even repellant, the writing in HARMLESS LIKE YOU is assured and the story is interesting. Having said that, I cannot recommend the novel, which is a long ways from Keats's "thing of beauty" and "a joy forever". I know life is not all "sweetness and light" but this was a little too dark for my tastes. ( )
  fountainoverflows | Dec 29, 2019 |
The Japanese family Oyama, father, mother and sixteen-year-old Yukiko, has been living for a while in New York City where Mr. Oyama had been relocated from Japan for his job. At the same time that Yuki has finally found a friend in Odile, Yuki’s father has been ordered back to Japan to fulfill his job responsibilities there. Having formed a friendship with Odile, Yuki convinces her parents to allow her to stay in New York City to live with Odile and her mother while they move back to their home country of Japan.

Yuki has come to love New York City but she hides the harsh reality of her life with Odile from her family. Yuki also wants to become an artist, a career that her family would never condone. Then when Odile gets a modeling job and moves out of the apartment Yuki’s life takes a different direction and she finds herself in a disappointing relationship with an older man.

The book alternates chapters between the 1960’s and the 1970’s when Yuki was a teenager and the present day which is narrated by Yuki’s son, Jay. Yuki abandoned her son when he was only two, and consequently, Jay is struggling with his role as a new father. Jay’s father has died and he now needs to find his mother in order to settle his father’s estate.

The book is about finding oneself, about being lonely and having personal insecurities. It is about art and how it affects both the artist and the art observer. The novel touches on what it is like to feel like an outsider when living in a foreign country and what is it like to have friends. And finally, there is a great deal about family bonds, abusive relationships, inherited identity, and abandonment.

The characters are not strong and likeable. The plot is sometimes dark and depressing. But the conclusion leaves one with the opinion that there may be some sense of contentment in the future for Yuki and Jay. ( )
  Rdglady | Nov 20, 2018 |
You really needed the entire book, or audio which I enjoyed, to understand the depths of the problems of the generations in this story. You finally "almost" understand everything in the end and it's worth the puzzle to get there. ( )
  nyiper | Sep 4, 2017 |
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'"This brilliant debut novel by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan is cause for celebration."--Lorrie Moore. Written in startlingly beautiful prose, Harmless Like You is set across New York, Berlin, and Connecticut, following Yuki Oyama, a Japanese girl fighting to make it as an artist, and Yuki's son Jay who, as an adult in the present day, is forced to confront the mother who abandoned him when he was only two years old. The novel opens when Yuki is sixteen and her father is posted back to Japan. Though she and her family have been living as outsiders in New York City, Yuki opts to stay, intoxicated by her friendship with the beautiful aspiring model Odile, the energy of the city, and her desire to become an artist. But when she becomes involved with an older man and the relationship turns destructive, Yuki's life is unmoored. Harmless Like You is a suspenseful novel about the complexities of identity, art, adolescent friendships, and familial bonds, which asks--and ultimately answers--how does a mother desert her son?" --

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