by Star Spider
In the late 60s, the newest member of a group of all-female pearl divers — the ama — sees her life, and the lives of those dear to her, disrupted by an unlikely force: a James Bond film that sends American men to Japan in search of their own personal 'mermaids'.
WE CALLED HER AMAKO, child of the ama—the women of the sea, on the shores of Kuzaki—because no one knew her real name and she was the best of us, a master deep diver who worked with her brother off a small, green fishing boat. I first saw her when I was twelve years old, a terrified novice shallow diver huddled in the corner of the amagoya, the small hut built for the ama. Papa had sent me to Kuzaki to live with my cousin Hiroko and his wife Nori because we needed money. I was to learn the secrets of the ama and find the richest abalone, those who hid the largest gems in their whorling folds.
Coming from inland Kyoto, I had never seen the ocean before and its endless horizon and undulating mass intimidated me. I watched the ama chatter and prepare for the day, washing their hands in small bowls of water and stripping down to their bare skin with only a small loincloth to cover them. Their fleshy breasts swayed to the rhythm of the waves and I felt out of place—an earthy inland child, banished to the realm of Suijin, the water god. There was a small stone plaque in the corner of the amagoya depicting a wave and a fish, a sign of respect for Suijin. It was meant to bring good luck to the ama, but only brought me fear and trepidation.
My brother Ryou used to tell me tales of the ama dancing with sharks and jellyfish. Poisoned and devoured. He liked to scare me and he would throw his head back and laugh as my brow creased with worry. But it wasn’t he who would have to journey below the surface of the mysterious ocean, so what did he care for my fear? I begged Papa to let me stay in Kyoto. I promised to work in the fields from the golden start of the day into the darkest night. But he knew of the ama and the riches of the sea and would have nothing less. He was not an unkind man, just demanding. Mama would have let me stay, I know it, but Mama was long gone and so I was all alone—small and scared.
about the author
STAR SPIDER is a writer from Toronto, Canada where she lives and works with her awesome husband Ben Badger. Star is represented by Carrie Plitt of Conville & Walsh and she’s hoping to have her first novel published soon. In her spare time Star is going to school and writing short stories which can be found in many places including A cappella Zoo, Necessary Fiction, The James Franco Review, Flyleaf Journal, Gone Lawn, Open Pen, Apeiron Review and Klipspringer Magazine. starspider.ca
from the library
by Naomi K Lewis
As a boy, Timmy (Sir Timothy Brian F. the Fantabulous) tells tall, tragic tales to get attention from the adults in his life - particular his busy mother and Dr. Bass, his nerdy-cool neighbour. As a young man, his escalating lies destroy his relationships, alienate his loved ones, and land him in hot water with police; but that doesn’t stop him from crying wolf again and again.
Toronto in the twenty-first century: At night, a beacon on a lonely ancient lake, a drainage pond from the last ice age. In the daytime, a bulwark of glass, glinting in the radiant sun. Joe, Mary, and her cat, Sam, sit in a lakeside condo, trapped by a crazed, mysterious sniper. What has become of their lives? What has become of their city? What has become of their century? As the situation begins to unravel, Mary finds herself wondering, “What would Margaret Atwood do?”
Saxophonist Metche Hufu and his band are the talk of Addis Ababa, filling nightclubs and packing dance floors. But the precarious existence of this golden age of culture depends on an emperor’s benevolence - and when his power begins to wane, Metche Hufu's music threatens to be silenced by the sounds of a country torn apart.
“How do you give voice to a sax player silenced by the politics of his country? If you’re a jazz singer like Kurt Elling, you take Dexter Gordon’s solo on ‘Body and Soul’ from his Homecoming album and you turn it into vocalese. If your name is Andrew Forbes and your tenor sax player is Ethiopian and it is Addis Ababa 1973 and his musical idol is King Curtis, you write The Expansiveness of My Sound and what you write is wider, more straight-ahead, stronger with political fervour, sadder than Elling but every bit as smart. Forbes is doing it solo and you have to imagine the quartet behind him. Read it with your fingers tapping and you’ll catch the beat. Read it with your ears open and you’ll hear Metche Hufu’s body and soul. Dig it!”
— T. F. Rigelhof, author of Hooked on Canadian Books: The Good, the Better, and the Best Canadian Novels Since 1984
June's mother is getting married and there's nothing June can do about it. Counting down the days to the wedding while trapped with a sort-of friend and unwanted family-to-be at their lakeside cottage in the Kawarthas, June searches desperately for a way to make the world - and her life - stand still.
by Kirsty Logan
The anarchic relationships holding together a group of teen girls - whose lines between love and hate, jealousy and loyalty, are not so much drawn as they are furiously scribbled - are put to the test at an unforgettable birthday party. This story captures all the angst and uncertainty of adolescence, with prose as sharp and jarring as a smashed kaleidoscope.
“Rarely an author comes along whose work hits you with the impact of a slap. I have had this experience with the work of Jayne Anne Phillips, with Lorrie Moore and Mary Gaitskill; most recently I have felt this on discovering the writing of Kirsty Logan. Her work is elegant, minimal, and innovative, but underlying it all is a great passion. If the world is a place where talent is recognised—in time, I believe, we may come to say her name alongside the aforementioned.”
— Ewan Morrison, author of Swung
In this unexpectedly dark character study, Jessica Westhead puts you in the shoes of an apprentice forced to listen to a seasoned wedding DJ as he lectures on the tricks of the trade. Emboldened by the captivity of his audience, the DJ's 'humorous' observations and grievances claw deeper and deeper, betraying ugliness at the core.
“In the still-frothing wake of And Also Sharks, here’s another sadly hilarious and hilariously sad Jessica Westhead story with bite. The self-deluding wedding DJ in The Lesson is a perfect addition to Westhead’s bent gallery of sympathetic sad sacks blustering their way through work and love ever after.”
— Zsuzsi Gartner, author of All the Anxious Girls on Earth and the 2011 Giller Prize–shortlisted Better Living Through Plastic Explosives
by Marielle Mondon
At Georgetown University, a music student and part-time nude life model becomes involved with the first true passion of her life, a man who awakens her to the weight of experience she already possesses - as well as the ups and downs yet to come.
After undergoing a cosmetic treatment to recover her lost youth, a middle-aged woman finds herself reconnected to her alienated daughter - a young woman still searching for her own path in life - in an unexpected and incredible way. A modern-day fable from two-time Scotiabank Giller Prize nominee Pauline Holdstock.
“Hers is the kind of prose you get lost in.”
— National Post on The Hunter and the Wild Girl
“Holdstock’s writing manages to be both heartbreakingly poetic and densely detailed ... sad passages, ghostlike recollections, written almost from the vantage point of the present, establish the book as a great work of fiction.”
— The Globe and Mail on Into the Heart of the Country, longlisted for the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize
“Holdstock, with a few deft strokes, pulls the reader into the tumultuous life of an alluring rabble of characters: painters, sculptors, patrons, fools, and slaves . . . In Beyond Measure, she proves herself a master of pacing. Her lively, macabre plot trips lightly along in spite of its dark elements.”
— The Globe and Mail on Beyond Measure, finalist for the 2004 Giller Prize and the 2004 Commonwealth Writers' Prize