What a thrill it was to be invited to speak at a symposium held in Okinawa and dedicated to literature set in Okinawa and written by American authors!  I am very grateful for the recognition.

Katsuren was one of five novels discussed by university professors and seasoned critics.  Of the novels discussed, the one closest to my heart was one I read ages and ages ago–Tea House of the August Moon” by Vern Sneider.  It was the first post-WWII story set in Okinawa, and took a very light-hearted point of view of the war.  You could almost classify it with the “screwball comedies” that were popular at the time.  What I liked was that the critic, Larry McCaffery, looked beyond the fluff and called it “a dream within a nightmare”.  Okinawa at that time (1945) was certainly a nightmare.  The author, according to Mr. McCaffery, wrote about his dream for Okinawa’s rebirth, not the squalor he actually witnessed.

Writing about what is witnessed is news reporters’ work.  Putting dreams into words is what I believe is the work of novelists.  I applaud the alternative vision of Okinawa created by the author, Mr. Sneider.  Imagine what the island could have become if economic development powered by culture and genuine human needs had been allowed to flourish instead of turning one fifth of this Eden into a military complex.

Katsuren, too, has an alternative to offer.  If you have already read it, you know that the underlying theme is a modern love story between an American archeologist and an Okinawan news reporter.  The female lead is the American; the male lead character is the Okinawan.  I loved that the moderator of the symposium, Mr. Yukinori Tokuyama, caught on to the significance of these roles.

I recast the image of American/Okinawan romantic relationships, and I did it because, as Mr. Tokuyama suggested, I believe it is time to recast the American/Okinawan political relationship.  Wouldn’t it be a lovely 100th birthday present to author Vern Sneider to give his vision of an Okinawa for Okinawans a chance?

 

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