Title: The River With No Bridge
Author: Sue Sumii
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing
Koji Hatanaka was the youngest in his family. His brother Seitaro went to Osaka for an apprenticeship while his mother and grandmother had to work to make the family survive the hardship in their poor village, Komori. Life wasn’t get any better when Koji realized that he’s not just an ordinary poor. He was an eta. He’s an eta, born in an eta family and living in an eta village.
Koji soon learned that being an eta means he was in the bottom of the caste system. Even, it’s safer to say that an eta was an outcast. Although her grandmother said that the eta’s life was better that it had been, especially after the caste-system had been erased, Koji knew since his early age that the society still treated them really bad.
The literature talks a lot about the discrimination in Japan in early 20th century. Although the main topic is about the social class discrimination using the caste system, the novel also implicitly revealed the gender discrimination in work, and social role. Even until now, the topic is still relevant and still good for discussions in any level.
Koji, the main character is described as a brilliant young elementary student, who knew already, in his young age, that he’s not the same with most of his friends at school. It was fascinating to see how “eta” was seen and described from eta boy’s mind and experiences. As an elementary student, Koji’s explanation about what he saw, felt and thought was simple, but also curious and critical at the same time. It was childish, although in many occasion I can feel that Koji might be too mature foe his age, which understandable enough knowing that he’s smart, and he lived a hard life there.
Sue Sumii, the author of this novel was very descriptive in her storytelling. I’m glad there were a lot of notes because she used a lot of Japanese term which for me, who wasn’t at all familiar with Japanese culture, were not easy to understand. I felt a bit of satisfaction when she gave some detailed information about rituals, particular places or a little bit of history lesson in this work, which fulfill my expectation of a good reading with many information I can absorb.
I learned that The River With No Bridge is the first of seven volume. I wonder if I can find the rest of the series around, because, to be honest, I found this book by a chance. It was a lucky pick in the bookstore I believe. So, if anyone happened to know anything about the series, please do tell me. OK?