Prose, paperback, 136 pages, from Civil Coping Mechanisms.
How can a family be a demolition of the self and a home one lives in? How does a fractured body heal a trauma through connection? Deeply embedded in the novel Gaijin, by Jordan Okumura, is an unsettling nostalgia for family and for her Japanese culture, haunted by whispers and by abandoning, by illness and isolation, by silence and trauma. The novel attempts to simultaneously track a personal rupture and a family, through the painful and awkward reclamation of the self after sexual violence and the evocation of a patriarch who is half dreamed, half real. The narrative bravely plows forward in reconciling two disparate sources of grief in order to heal them, trying to articulate the inarticulatable in a style that straddles genres—part memoir, part mythology, and part eulogy to a grandfather. Gaijin, a first novel for Okumura, is so powerful in its poetry and aching, it crushes the breath out of you as you read, cracks your chest wide open. Though the sum of Okumura’s exquisite metaphors is often grim, tragic, there is always a glimmer in the yearning.
"And what is the measure of self inside grief? Jordan Okumura’s novel Gaijin is a body song. By weaving stories of loss and myth, Okumura brings an identity to life, half real, half imagined. I was mesmerized from start to finish."
-Lidia Yuknavitch, author of Small Backs of Children
"Labile, alluvial, fricative, abrasive, Gaijin cuts a channel through stone which takes the shape of its own persistence. I want to say your name with a rock beneath my tongue. It stages and restages memory to pinpoint the exact site where the skin broke and the shard sank in, then gestures towards a moment-after wherein this wound, inverted, might become both shield and sword. A nervy, unnerving book."
-Joyelle McSweeney, author of Dead Youth, or, The Leaks
"Gaijin makes possible the impossible language of trauma."
-Molly Gaudry, author We Take Me Apart
"To pirate, to scratch. To press or be pressed: 'into the girl corner.' To watch: 'the water run home.' How the cliffs 'ignite.' Jordan Okumura’s Gaijin is an extraordinary book of poetry written, or so it feels, into the axial space of memory, embodiment and dream. In it, a grandfather, a man 'born from tears and war,' moves from space to space, just as the narrator does: the 'river floor,' the garage that becomes a Japanese theater, the mouth 'that is already closed.' What does it mean to have had a hand in one’s 'own erasure'? I was very moved by Okumura’s decision to make a book the site of 'wet erosion,' tongueless. And yet the stories pour out, 'beautiful' in their 'heat.' Towards the question. Of what it would be. 'To stop.' I am honored to write in support of Gaijin, which takes it’s place in the contemporary literatures of exile and diaspora: an index of fire and water, 'original bone,' and light."
-Bhanu Kapil, author of Schizophrene
"Reading Jordan Okumura’s poetic prose will change the way you breathe and the way you move. Her prose reaches inside you, caresses the very core of who you are, and transforms what you thought you knew about love, hope, and desire in unnerving ways. Her writing does not simply remind me of the writing of Carole Maso, Helene Cixous, and Marguerite Duras; her writing extends this tradition of intimate, passionate writing that does not fear the pain of seeing into truth. Gaijin will awaken you to new ways for seeing and feeling. Each time I have read Gaijin, I have come to know something new about myself, about my own heart. It is rare for a first novel to look in such a relentless and courageous way into familial relationships and memories as does Gaijin."
-Doug Rice, author of Between Appear and Disappear
"The narrator of Jordan Okumura’s haunting and evocative Gaijin says “I “want to live the life of tongues.” But what if that tongue has been inscribed with the language of others? In lyric prose born of breath and body, Okumura wrestles with questions like: How to find one’s self when “memories don’t know how to stay past?” How to “reconcile the possibility of a girl and men” when those men have stolen all possibility from the girl? How to escape the legacy of a father when that father “is me. Wrapped in the stone of me?” In doing so, she gives us a beautifully fractured story of a journey to uncover the history of a woman hidden within the history of a family. I dare you not to fall under Okumura’s spell."
-Peter Grandbois, author of Nahoonkara
Jordan Okumura is a writer and editor. Her work has been published in Gargoyle, DIRTY:DIRTY (Jaded Ibis Press), Black Rabbit, and First Stop Fiction. Jordan lives and works in Sacramento, California where she is an editor for trade news publications in the agricultural industry and is a regular contributor at Enclave/Entropy. Gaijin is her first book.