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
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“Hers is the kind of prose you get lost in.”
— National Post on The Hunter and the Wild Girl
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— The Globe and Mail on Into the Heart of the Country, longlisted for the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize
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— The Globe and Mail on Beyond Measure, finalist for the 2004 Giller Prize and the 2004 Commonwealth Writers' Prize
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“Kirsty is one of the best and brightest . . . when I read her stuff I feel like I could taste it, chew it, roll it around on my tongue, the language is so delicious and sturdy and musical. She also has a knack for getting relationships exactly right in her writing, whether between parent and child or lovers or friends.”
— Amber Sparks, Fiction Editor at Emprise Review