Scot's Reviews > Blu's Hanging

Blu's Hanging by Lois-Ann Yamanaka
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Dec 17, 07

bookshelves: favorites
Recommended for: everyone
Read in January, 2005

I found another book recently in my journey to the center of the earth otherwise known as my attempt to clean up my basement.

Blu's Hanging is one of my favorite books. I love Lois Ann Yamanaka right down to her flipped out hair and super-dark lipstick. If you pick up a copy that includes a picture of her you'll know just what I mean. You can just tell that she got busted for smoking in the girls room more often than any other girl in school, or at least that's how I imagine her to be from her picture and, most of all, from her writing.

If I was a drag queen, I'd be Lois Ann. She's brilliant.

This genius friend of mine named Mary turned me on to Lois Ann many years ago. Over the course of those years I've read a lot of Lois Ann. I don't love every one of her stories, but I do absolutely totally love Blu's Hanging.

The story is about three working class Japanese American sibs growing up on Molokai, struggling to make sense of life in the wake of the death of their mother and their father's subsequent retreat from the world and from them. My friend (I just know we'd be bffs) Lois Ann's remarkable sensitivity really comes through in her ability to embody the characters of the children, really bringing them to life as whole and complex people. She understands childhood the way we do, not the way Pat Robertson would like us to.

There's no nostalgia; no rose colored glasses; no sexless, simple, run spot run days of lazing around and thinking about nothing. I mean, who really had that childhood? Nope, I mean the kind of childhood where you experiment with drugs and sex and end up feeling kinda dirty and bad but good at the same time, and where you live so acutely and vividly in the present that you might commit suicide at any minute.

Lois Ann also has a very good ear for language and really uses dialogue and dialect to construct the world she writes about. It's all pretty amazing, or at least it was for me.

This story made me feel what Lori Lieberman must have felt when she wrote the poem that led to that song Killing Me Softly. I identified that strongly with these characters, and one in particular. In fact, I identified with them so strongly that I almost felt like it was a story about my own life.

Of course, isn't that how a lot of us feel when we read really good literature, or at least what serves as really good literature to us? You know, like the author is telling your own personal story?

If you read it, let me know what you think. Maybe I just like it because so many of the circumstances mirror circumstances in my own life. But, maybe not. That would be nice to know.



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