Stories by currently noteworthy Japanese women writers, published in the 1980's, and now available for the first time in translation. Written during a period of transition, these pieces reflect women's responses to a time of both positive and negative changes. Women are accepted in the workforce, their sexuality is acknowledged, yet these benefits have a price: families are dislocated, children suffer, and important traditions are lost. In Mizuko Masuda's ``Sinking Ground,'' a 30-ish administrator has tried to impose a rigid order on her life but finds that ``a bag of memories is not as sturdy as one might think.'' Another independent woman, an artist, finds new creative vitality (in Eimi Yamada's ``When A Man Loves A Woman'') when she has an affair with a beautiful younger man. Two stories—``The Rain at Rokudo Crossroad,'' by Kazuko Saeguso, and ``Candle Fish,'' by Minako Ohba—despite their references to old legends, describe contemporary married women trying to attain a measure of independence. These varying concerns all come together in the especially accomplished ``A Family Party'' by Hikari Agata. A daughter-in-law organizing a family get-together in a new hotel built on the site of their old home recalls how her in-laws sold their land and moved to a suburb, where her father-in-law seemed lost: ``We thought that as long as he could continue his work he would be happy. We were wrong.'' Then when he is killed in an accident, ``We talked about his death as a consequence of his dementia, we knew he had been feeling guilty for selling the land that he had inherited from his ancestors....Even so, what could we have done?'' The old and the new converge, and the result is understandably less-than satisfactory. A notable collection—to be read not only for its insights into the lives of contemporary Japanese women but for the very good writing here.
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