Friday, October 30, 2009

Japan Took the J.A.P. Out of Me by Lisa Fineberg Cook

Six days after an InStyle-worthy wedding in Los Angeles, Lisa Fineberg Cook left behind her little red Jetta, her manicurist of ten years, and her very best friend for the land of the rising sun. When her husband accepted a job teaching English in Nagoya, Japan, she imagined exotic weekend getaways, fine sushi dinners, and sake sojourns with glamorous expatriate friends. Instead, she's the only Jewish girl on public transportation, and everyone is staring. Lisa longs for regular mani/pedis, valet parking, and gimlets with her girlfriends, but for the next year, she learns to cook, clean, commute, and shop like the Japanese, all the while adjusting to another foreign concept -- marriage. Loneliness and frustration give way to new and unexpected friendships, the evolution of old ones, and a fresh understanding of what it means to feel different -- until finally a world she never thought she'd fit into begins to feel home-like, if not exactly like home.

I really enjoy reading memoirs and was excited when I signed up for this book tour. The thing I like most about a memoir is seeing someone grow or change over time. Lisa Fineberg Cook did grow a bit during her stay in Nagoya, Japan, but not quite enough for my taste. Lisa was one of those women who never really knew about wanting (without getting). The J.A.P. in the title stands for Jewish American Princess and I would say it describes her perfectly. Her first months in Japan are spent not only fighting with an ancient washing machine but fighting with herself over participating in "wifely duties". She wanted the husband, but the idea of having to cook and clean seems too domesticated.

I did get a bit confused, because Jill and her husband are teachers, but they seem to have a lot of money most of the time. I don't know if her parents were helping or if they had saved well, but they took several trips, and never seemed to have too many money concerns. I know Jill did mention at one point that her parents had supported her prior to her wedding. The other thing that confused me is that she wrote the book as if she was a spoiled rotten rich girl, but she chose teaching as a profession and married a teacher. I think maybe she played up her personality a bit for the story. For me, though, I was turned off by that personality. It isn't cute to be too good to wash the clothes or ride the bus. It was just too over the top. Maybe it is because I have never had a chance to be that carefree, but it got on my nerves.

I also found the sex references and crude talk to be a little much. I can handle sex scenes in a memoir if they are tasteful - you know discreet, but these weren't that. I didn't need to know what sexual act she was performing on her husband. It served little to no purpose in the story most of the time. Now, to be fair, this book isn't loaded with sex. I just didn't like the brash way it was thrown in to her story.

All that being said, I did laugh out loud at parts of this book. I also did see her come around a bit and realize she had to make changes and grow up. I never threw the book down in disgust or anything like that. I just like a really life altering memoir and though she may have felt deeply changed it didn't come across that way. I would recommend this for a light read and an occasional laugh. I would not suggest you read this if you are looking to learn much about Japan. The reader does learn about the cultural differences in the treatment of women to an extent, but not enough to use the book for that.

I was supposed to do this review on October 27th for a blog tour, and didn't get it posted. I started to write it and then didn't realize I had not finished the review. My apologies to Sara at Pocket Books (Simon and Schuster) for the delay. Listed below are the other blogs involved in the tour.
Thank Sara for providing me with a copy of this book!

The Life (And Lies) of an Inanimate Flying Object:
The Neverending Shelf:
Drey’s Library:
A Sea of Books:
Libby’s Library News:
Bookin’ With Bingo:
That’s A Novel Idea:
Starting Fresh:
Just Another New Blog:
Blog Business World:
My Friend Amy:
Chick With Books:
Book N Around:
My Book Views:
So Many Books, So Little Time:
Keep on Booking:
Reading at the Beach:
Found Not Lost:
Brizmus Blogs Books:
I Read:

1 comment:

  1. Missed the tour but am set to read the book. I have a son in Japan teaching English so I'll be really interested in this book!