Precarious Japan

December 5, 2013 History, Narrative Non-Fiction, non-fiction, Psychology 11

17264900Title: Precarious Japan
Author: Anne Allison
Source: from publisher for review
Fun Fact: Until the 1980’s when this was made illegal, many Japanese companies required that women leave work when they married or had children. 80% of women still follow this custom.
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Review Summary: Parts of this book read like narrative non-fiction and gave fascinating insight into the state of Japan, but other bits were full of sociology-speak and very hard to follow.

Currently in Japan regular employment is becoming scarcer, the population is aging, and recovery from the nuclear disaster of 3/11 is still underway. All of these factors have made life more uncertain in Japan. Many people feel a lack of belonging and connection to other people. The author, Anne Allison, addresses these issues both through social theories about Japan and her extensive interviews with Japanese citizens.

This is one of those books that is a three star book because there were four star bits and two star bits. I loved when the author shared interviews with individuals, her personal experiences, and news stories. I also enjoyed learning about the history of Japan and how it impacts the way people feel now. The theories the author had about current events were fascinating, as were her tentative suggestions for ways the Japanese might recover a feeling of security. Despite being full of facts and clearly well researched, parts of this book were very profound and emotionally moving.

The only bad bits were places where the language got too dense for me to follow. There were some bits where I would google word definitions (because not all of them were in my kindle dictionary) and re-read a sentence several times without ever feeling like I really understood what they were saying. Sometimes I felt like it was some academic just trying to sound smart without saying much, but I think it’s more likely that these words have different meanings within the field of sociology. This happened the most when the author was integrating ideas from other scholars. It was almost as though there was a dissertation mixed in with my narrative non-fiction.

Overall, this was a good book and I think there were far more interesting, understandable bits than bits that were hard to follow. If, like me, you’d like to know more about different cultures and current events, I’d recommend giving this a try. The published version might even add some clarification at which point I would highly recommend it.

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11 Responses to “Precarious Japan”

    • DoingDewey

      It was a bit depressing but it was also fascinating and ended somewhat hopefully, so it’s not depressing enough that I’d avoid it for that reason 🙂

    • DoingDewey

      It got better when i let myself just give up on getting things after reading a sentence two or three times, haha. And I do think there were more good parts then bad, so I’d certainly recommend giving it a try if you could get it for free or cheap 🙂

  1. shayshortt

    This sounds like a very interesting read, so its too bad you found it to be so mixed. I’m not sure what audience they’re targeting, but if this is for general reading, a glossary or something might have been a good idea.

    • DoingDewey

      A glossary would really have helped and again, this was an ARC so maybe that will get better or there will be more explanation of the difficult quotes she included. I’m not entirely sure what audience she was targeting either. It didn’t seem like a textbook thing to me or I wouldn’t have picked it up, but she did seem to be building an argument that rested on a lot of previous dense philosophy which seems academic to me.

  2. Allison @ The Book Wheel

    This sounds really interesting. I’ve been wanting to read some more Asian non-fiction (as a combination of school + fun) and this one might be worth checking out, even though it’s not fantabulous.

    • DoingDewey

      I think it could be. I thought more of it was well-written and interesting than not and I felt like I learned a lot. I would be most likely to recommend it someone already interested in the topic because it definitely doesn’t achieve the readability of narrative non-fiction throughout.