Monday, March 21, 2011

Paper Crane Contest: The Heart of Hyacinth

I hope more of you plan to comment on my Paper Cranes post and spread the words about sending paper cranes to Students Rebuild to raise money for Japan--$2 for every crane sent!

As promised, I'm holding a little contest as incentive. Remember, you don't even have to link to MY blog, you can link directly to Students Rebuild. Then leave a comment on this or the previous post on my blog to be entered into the contest. You will be entered once for every form of media with which you spread the word (blog, twitter, facebook...). You will be entered twice in all media if you also *make* some cranes and post a photo to their facebook page, linking to it here!

And here is what you get:

A beautiful first edition copy of The Heart of Hyacinth
(...which, by the way, is apparently selling on ebay for almost $250!!!!)

I bought this copy from the used book store where I work, though I did not pay $250.

I chose this book for a couple reasons. One, it's beautiful and it's set in Japan. The cover alone is lovely but there are also four full color illustrations. Here's one:
There's also artwork on every single page, surrounding the text, like this:
Two, it's set in Sendai, which was near the epicenter of the earthquake. It just seemed to be the perfect fit to me.
The book has an odd heritage, which appealed to me. It was written by Onoto Watanna--the pen name of Chinese-Canadian author Winnifred Eaton. Interesting, huh? You can read more about Eaton in this review of Diana Birchall's biography Onoto Watanna: The Story of Winnifred Eaton.

As the child of an interracial couple, Eaton explored those circumstances in her novels. Hyacinth in The Heart of Hyacinth is born of (White) American parents but raised in Japan as a Japanese girl. In fact, she doesn't even realize that she looks different from her Japanese peers until she sees herself in a mirror. Lindsay Lindgren has written a wonderful review of the book for the Universtity of Minnesota here.

And if you're looking for more information on Watanna/ Eaton, here's a nice bibliography for you.

I wonder if some people find this book infuriating. I suppose you could see it as a woman writer appropriating Japan for her own commercial success, traipsing around in a kimono and further exoticizing Japan for her readers.

However, I prefer to look at it this way: both she and her characters remind us that people are universal, stories are universal. No matter where we're from, or what culture we identify with, the important thing to remember is that we are all in this together.


  1. Hi Jennifer. I posted! Too bad I only have about 30 facebook friends :/ I'm going to try to make some paper cranes this weekend with my niece.

  2. That's awesome, B! Making cranes with one of the cutest kids on earth definitely counts for a lot! I plan to post pics of my cranes once I get the hang of it. So hasn't been going so well.

  3. I finally remembered, when on facebook, to post about it to my fb page. (I am also about to post it to my LJ.) Also, that is a gorgeous book.