TRASH by Amy Yamada


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 Translated here into English for the first time, Yamada, author of over 20 novels, tells a banal story of an insecure Asian woman in love with an alcoholic, and sometimes abusive, African-American man in New York City. Yamada introduces some potentially powerful themes in this book: interracial dating, emotional and physical abuse, addiction, older women who date younger men, homosexuality, what it means to be a parent. But it reads more like a foreigner's idea of that crazy New York scene than an interpretation from someone who really knows the city. She introduces these ideas one after the other, but, for the most part, fails to follow through to any honest revelations. Koko is a beautiful young Japanese woman who works in a Greenwich Village art gallery. It would have been nice if Yamada had fleshed out Koko's background so that her reasons for letting herself get caught up in a relationship with the eternally elusive and intoxicated Rick made more sense. But as it is, readers don't understand why she spends her days cleaning up vomit and taking care of his angry, pubescent son and her nights waiting for the lush to stumble home. In all fairness, Yamada suggests that Koko may delight in the fact that she and Rick aren't on equal terms, and we can't help but notice that she reaches for a gin-and-tonic during periods of emotional stress--but all this is just mentioned in passing. Despite everything, Koko assures herself she's not unhappy, and not until she falls in love with a sweet and generous college student does she dump Rick. Koko isn't big on self-examination, so don't expect her to question the tenderness with which she showers Rick after he bashes her face in, or to wonder why she can't be alone. Trying too hard to be hip yet meaningful, this novel goes on and on and on and never says a thing. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 1-56836-018-5
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Kodansha
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1994