'N.C. Bookwatch': Davis-Gardner Discusses Book
Angela Davis-Gardner's novel "Plum Wine" features Barbara Jefferson, a young American teaching in Tokyo in the 1960s, set on a life-changing quest when her Japanese surrogate mother, Michi, dies, leaving her a tansu of homemade plum wines wrapped in rice paper.
Within the papers Barbara discovers writings in Japanese calligraphy that comprise a startling personal narrative. With the help of her translator, Seiji Okada, Barbara begins to unravel the mysteries of Michi's life, a story that begins in the early twentieth century and continues through World War II and its aftermath.
In this episode of UNC-TV's local literary series "North Carolina Bookwatch," airing Friday, Oct. 27, at 9:30 p.m., author and North Carolina State University professor Angela Davis-Gardner examines the human relationships, cultural differences, and the irreparable consequences of war that runs deep in "Plum Wine's" original, and yet timeless, tale.
"The premise of the book is that an American, who is living in Tokyo, is left a chest full of homemade plum wine by her surrogate mother. Each bottle is wrapped in rice paper, and on that rice paper is Japanese writing that she has to have translated; and that gets the novel going," says Davis-Gardner. "The plum wine really starts it all."
As "Plum Wine's" Barbara and Seiji translate the plum wine papers they form an intimate bond, with Michi a ghostly third in what becomes an increasingly uneasy triangle. Barbara is deeply affected by the revelation that Michi and Seiji are hibakusha, survivors of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima, and even harder for her to understand are the devastating psychological effects wrought by war -- a subplot that comes from the author's own experiences.
"One of the few autobiographical parts of this book was my experience having to do with the Vietnam War while I was in Japan," says Davis-Gardner. "I went there believing it was a good war and my students began to talk me out of that notionand I just began to look at war in a different way."
Angela Davis-Gardner is the author of two critically acclaimed novels, "Felice" and "Forms of Shelter." Her short stories and personal essays have appeared in numerous literary magazines including Shenandoah and The Greensboro Review. She is professor of creative writing at North Carolina State University.
An encore episode airs Sunday, Oct. 29, at 5 p.m.
For more information about additional series guests and airdates, plus the all-new Bookwatch blog and online book club, visit www.unctv.org/ncbookwatch.
Funding for North Carolina Bookwatch is provided by UNC-TV members and by Quail Ridge Books and Music, Raleigh's independent, full service bookstore, bringing readers and writers together since 1984.
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