December 6 - J-Boys: From Inspiration to Translation

The Story of Middle Grade Novel J-Boys: Kazuo’s World, Tokyo, 1965

Date: December 6, 2011
Time: 6:00 p.m. bento supper, presentation 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Place: Rm. 204, Wesley Center, 6-10-7 Minami Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo (map)
Admission fee: SWET and SCBWI members 1,000 yen; nonmembers 1,500 yen
J-Boys themed dinner bento: 1,500 yen with advance reservation 
Reservations and information: SWET Events. (Bento reservations are required by November 30.) 

In Japan, a new Olympic bid is underway and adults wax nostalgic about the 1964 Tokyo Games, as well as the economic boom years of the 1960s. What was it like to be a child at that time, and how can this be conveyed to upper elementary school children in North America? Shogo Oketani lives in the same Shinagawa Ward neighborhood where, as a youngster, he ate curry rice, watched Leave It to Beaver on TV, listened to the Beatles, and watched adults remember World War II. In this presentation, he will describe how he developed his experiences into fifteen linked short stories about nine-year-old Kazuo Nakamoto, his friends, and his working-class community. Oketani's wife Leza Lowitz will discuss the subsequent transformation of the Japanese stories into an English-language novel targeted to the U.S. middle grade (MG) market, called J-Boys: Kazuo's World, Tokyo, 1965. Oketani and Lowitz will read excerpts from the text and present historical photographs used in the book and ebook. Translator Avery Fischer Udagawa will comment via Skype about the novel’s niche among Asia-focused MG titles. Holly Thompson will moderate the exchange. Join us for an evening of Showa supper dishes, glimpses of Tokyo past, and reflections on contemporary children’s literature.

This event is co-sponsored by the Society of Writers, Editors, and Translators (SWET) and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Tokyo Chapter.

Shogo Oketani was born in 1958 and raised in Tokyo. Following studies in the humanities at Keio University, he became an active writer and translator. He is well known for his translations of modernist poet Ayukawa Nobuo, for which he and his wife, Leza Lowitz, received the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature from the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture at Columbia University, and a grant from the NEA.

Leza Lowitz is an award-winning writer and yoga instructor whose work has recently appeared in The Huffington Post, Shambhala Sun, and Best Buddhist Writing of 2011. She has authored more than a dozen books. Her latest title is Yoga Heart: Lines on the Six Perfections.

Avery Fischer Udagawa parents, writes, and translates in a bicultural (Japanese/American) family living north of Bangkok. She co-leads the SCBWI Tokyo Translation Group and contributes the column Four Worlds to Literary Mama

Holly Thompson is the author of the novels Orchards and Ash and the picture book The Wakame Gatherers, and editor of the forthcoming young adult fiction anthology Tomo. She teaches creative and academic writing at Yokohama City University and is regional advisor of the Tokyo chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.