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Inheritors

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A fascinating story told from the perspective of the daughter of a Japanese American man who grew up in Japan during the aftermath of World War II.  Her father is educated in America and marries an American woman.  They travel back to Japan every year to visit his aging parents, but this particular year Luna's father chooses to remain in Japan.  Many years later after many broken promises and much longing, Luna returns to Japan as  a young adult to close affairs after her father's untimely death. There she learns the truth about her father and his family.

To be told a story that grew from the Japanese experience of World War II provides an intriguing perspective not well explored.  This tale of humanity permits glimpses into conflicts within Asia that did not effect the United States.  It also illustrates from the Japanese perspective how the Occupation impacted the Japanese people.

This novel is not about anger or judgement or blame.  There are no "good guys" or "bad guys".  It is about living, breathing people who live on opposite side of the globe who are the inheritors of the mistakes and triumphs of the fallible human soul.
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Why do I keep choosing to read such hard books, books that wring my heart, cause my eyes to burn, and challenge my comfort with things I wish I did not know?

In this case, my husband heard of the book on the radio and recommended I look into it. It was publication day, but I was granted my request for the galley.

I really had little idea of the Japanese people's WWII experiences other than America's internment camps and the effect of the Atom bomb. The war divided families, soldiers endured horrors and then were pariahs, women sold their bodies to put food on the table, doctors were forced to perform horrible experiments for the war effort. 

Extraordinary and profound, Inheritors encapsulates a family's history over generations. You won't be the same after reading it.

I received a free egalley from the publisher through NetGalley. My review is fair and unbiased.
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Spanning more than 150 years, Inheritors is a collection of interconnected stories about the legacy of war in colonial and post-colonial Asia. The stories are not in chronological order, and without the help of the family tree at the beginning of the book, as well as the key stating what year each chapter took place, it would be more difficult to piece together the story.

The storytelling is ambitious and the writing is clever, emotionally charged, and inventive. I applaud Serizawa on her debut book, as it is beautifully done and signifies what is hopefully a long career for her. It certainly took me a bit to get into the stories, but once you get used to the formatting, it becomes much easier to understand the book for what it is, which is a recounting of the effects of war and loss, and how we as humans handle such devastating circumstances.
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Inheritors tells a story of Japan and Japanese Occupation in the years surrounding WWII, the citizens and soldiers and families. I love these kinds of stories that jump around in time and tell stories from different perspectives, from people at different stages in their lives. The stories are loosely connected, but can stand on their own. They are heartbreaking and illuminating. Serizawa's prose is beautiful. She is a new author, and I look forward to seeing more from her. The Japanese perspective on the war, which is seldom seen, made me ashamed I didn't know more about it, and now I want to learn more. Speaking of a time during the occupation, she writes "No doubt the world's advances had produced the miracle of bringing them - men from opposite ends of the map - together; yet it was also the madness of those advances that spared them no time to understand each other." We are still living under these circumstances, 70+ years later. History has a way of obscuring itself, smoothing over the  jagged edges of the violence and injustice. The past is erased bit by bit. Stories like this are concerned with "the concept of history, from myriad perspectives," as explained by the author in her notes. I highly recommend this book.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Doubleday Books for the opportunity to read Inheritors in exchange for an honest review.
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Here's my review for NPR: https://www.npr.org/2020/07/14/890571662/inheritors-maps-a-complicated-family-tree-through-the-centuries and the text is here:

Here, in my neighborhood, life is a mix of re-revised rules for living and reality checks. Every day the local authorities publish new data on the where of illness. Daily a new national atrocity snaps a klieg light on us. Reading these days is a necessary escape from, and immersion into, reckoning. And so it is with Asako Serizawa's stunning and visceral debut, The Inheritors. Every page speaks to our current zeitgeist. Each character in these stories is occupied and occupier, trapped in a moral and existential crisis that's unnerving because it's evergreen, because the nature of human tragedy is our own making and the lessons we keep learning never seem to take.

The book is a labyrinth of collected stories which follow a Japanese family's history over 150 years, beginning in 1868 and emerging into a future set in the 2030's, and connecting one family's multi-generational experiences living in a colonial and post-colonial world — in Japan, China, and the United States. The inheritors are the extended family of Masayuki and Taeko, and their family tree both opens and maps Serizawa's storytelling. Through them, we enter a place constructed of remembered passages and blind alleys — a mother's search for a son presumed lost during the firebombing of Tokyo, a husband's discovery of the alternate life his wife leads to ensure their post-war survival, a doctor's quest for the moral courage he abandoned during World War II at the real-life bacteriological torture palace/laboratory known as Unit 731. The gate out of this labyrinth is a future foretold by sibling technologists, who invent a virtual world to predict the impact of global climate change, by enabling a total abandonment of reality.

In the before times — e.g., pre-pandemic — the big thinking on social issues by institutional media, philanthropy and academia had reached a point of commodification — curated conversations about the nature and causes of oppression, public health, and public policy were (and still are) sold as revenue generating events. Fixing social problems meant having money and therefore access to policymakers. I've curated enough of these events to understand the impact monetized access has on the balance sheet of high profile think tanks and social justice organizations.

But the pandemic and upheavals in our civic culture forced a pivot. Now, we're reckoning on fundamentals — on happiness, on good and evil. Now, ordinary citizens drive the conversations about solutions for the common good, in social media, through street activism, citizen journalism and grass roots litigation. This emerging civic culture is demanding access to solve tough questions: shall we re-boot the American idea? What are national boundaries for? Does American society need something else besides consensus government? What might that something else look like?

The Inheritors provides a stark scenario as one answer. These stories follow the impact of exclusion, of cultural and biological manipulation, of men turning away from humanity, of women turning to a desperate agency of sex work, of children creating agency from despair, told through a familial kaleidoscope of perspectives and voices. But Serizawa's brave storytelling gives us more than an epic arc. She creates a narrative that is in and of itself a multidimensional space. As well, it's an homage to the surreal artistry of writers like Jorge Luis Borges — whose voice she manages to honor with a story which is not an echo but her own capacious, original illumination.

The story "Pavilion" is Serizawa's conversation with Borges; here she creates a space where the ancestors and inheritors of Masayuki and Taeko pass into and over and within each other, as two brothers of (literally) different mothers meet and address the tragedy which both separated and reunited them. They discover their brotherly connection is the same but not equal. As they discuss the past and the parallel trajectory of their lives, their conscious desire not to forget folds back on itself so that we, and they, become aware that a moment of conjoining is upon them. It's a moment one of the brothers understands is akin to the Japanese bow of respect — a moment one might consider all possible choices as "we each pause at the threshold of our common space and lower our heads in deference, so that we might together, even under the eternal augur of a curse, ceaselessly start anew in light."

If the nature of human tragedy is our own making and the lessons we keep learning never seem to take, the nature of hope is the mystery of its survival over this interminable caprice. And here is the sagacity of Serizawa's book — her enchantment draws us into a channel of experiences and voices seemingly connected only by the consequences of their tragedies — war, betrayal, rape, murder, abandonment. But within these parables is her paradox — that joy comes from sacrifice, or the understanding that it exists within sacrifice, and not as a consequence but as a matter of one fact — the fact that a space can exist as a blessing, in every moment we take as a beginning.
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"The Inheritors" is a masterful collection of short stories surrounding a family as they suffer, progress, and grow from the early 20th century until the near future. The stories cover a variety of time periods, but special attention is given to World War II and its ensuing effects.

Emotional, intelligent, and at times utterly heart-rending, this collection brings the reader into its world of 20th century Japan with ease. The stories are told in a variety of formats from an interview by a journalist to personal recollections to entries in a journal. Each story helps you not only connect with the characters it includes but provides context and backstory to everyone else in the family tree. I will say that because the stories are not presented chronologically, it is necessary to use the family tree diagram in the front of the book to help ground yourself in each piece. This is a collection that spans thousands of miles in geographic distance while exploring concepts as far-reaching as identity, culture, climate change, and war. I would recommend "The Inheritors" to anyone with an interest in World War II, Japan in general, sweeping generational family sagas, or even just particularly well-rendered short story collections.
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This collection of stories spans five generations and the stories blend together seamlessly.  The writing was so good that I find it hard to believe this is a debut for the author.  I definitely recommend this one!
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Inheritors by Asako Serizawa is a collection of interconnected stories that span over a century from the turn of the 20th century to the near future.   Most of the stories focus on members of a Japanese family and center of impact of World War II.   We see characters living in Japan before the war and during the war and their descendants living in America.   We see how families are torn apart and people are forced to take on roles that they didn't want to such as working in a brothel for American soldiers.   Each story was told from the perspective of a different character and in a different style, giving each story its own distinct feel.    

It was interesting and heartbreaking to read about the impact of WWII from the Japanese perspective.  We often hear WWII stories from the viewpoint of the victor (the Allies), so getting this take was different and an emotional journey.
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I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Inheritors caught my interest due to the blurb, and despite being a bit more literary than I typically go for, I found this an interesting read, highlighting the stories of a family across the generations in both Japan and the US through all the hardships they experienced. I feel like it’s not something that was taught enough in school, apart from the late 19th century immigration and World War II.

And while it’s not a linear narrative, and thus it did feel a little jarring, even with the guide at the beginning, I enjoyed how each section felt distinct due to the different styles, and how these vignettes (as that’s what it reminded me of) delved into such impactful topics, despite the fact that there wasn’t a ton of page time for every person’s story. I especially liked the interview that unveils a long-hidden murder, and how poignantly that was conveyed. 

I enjoyed this book, and liked trying something a bit outside my comfort zone. If you love family-oriented stories, then I think this is worth giving a try.
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The Inheritors by Asako Serizawa
Available July 14, 2020

The Inheritors is a beautifully written collection of connected short stories centered around a family through multiple generations and countries. Told from multiple perspectives, each with a distinct voice and style, The Inheritors is a fascinating look at how our actions can have an impact on future generations. Much of the book centers around the second World War and its effect on not only the citizens of Japan, but on the Koreans who were forced to work there by the Japanese. Family, love, grief and patriotism are all examined throughout the collection and some stories are more difficult emotionally than others. 
This was a fascinating collection of short stories and I highly recommend it. 
Thank you to Netgalley and the Publisher for the opportunity to read and review this title.  All opinions and mistakes are my own.
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Asako Serizawa’s Inheritors tells the story of a Japanese family caught up in history and questions of identity from the early 1900s to a few decades from now, always wondering what might have been if different decisions were made. Even though it’s made up of linked short stories, I found this book to be a slow burn—most of the “action” happens off the page and we generally see our characters wrestling with feelings of survivor’s guilt, regret, and anger.

The first story in the collection, “Flight,” is one of the oldest in the book’s chronology and is one of the few that’s not set in Japan. These differences are superficial, however, as this story introduces a theme that will play out over and over in the decades that follow. A child of this particular family (their surname is not given) will be separated from the larger family, either through choice or by accident. Ayumi, the protagonist of “Flight,” is separated by a bit of both. Like so many of her nieces and nephews, she will always wonder if she made the right choices.

Many of the later stories revolve directly around World War II. Several members of the family are dissidents, but two end up serving the Imperial Japanese Army. Tanaka went so far as to change his name so that he could sign up as a soldier. Another is dragooned into working for the notorious Unit 731. Later, two “brothers” meet up after finding each other years after the Tokyo firebombing ruined one life and transformed another for the better.

Because much of this book deals with the emotional aftermath of momentous events, we are given plenty of opportunities to think about how family and history push us into certain identities. For most of his life, Maasaki knew that he was the adopted child of Masaharu and Masako. Learning that he is not actually Japanese but the child of Korean workers throws him for such a loop that it destroys his relationship with his American wife and half-American children. One weight of history is suddenly swapped for another, apparently heavier, one.

Inheritors is a meditative look at history and identity. It was a little slow for my taste, but I very much appreciated the way it looked at choice and fate.
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Dnf. This was well written and I liked the idea of it but I simply didn’t enjoy it and didn’t finish because life is too shorr
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I wasn't sure what to make of this book at first. Each individual story connects to the others as it spans the period right before WWII through an imagined post-2020 world, and the perspectives encompass various branches of the same family tree. It's a bit discombobulating at times to try to make sense of where each person/story fits in, and I'm sure that I missed a lot in my confusion, but what I was still able to get a lot out of it. The Japanese perspective of this time is one that isn't often accessible to those of us in the US unless we truly search it out, and I appreciated the wider scope of knowledge and experience Serizawa provides. Though fiction, I still learned quite a bit, such as about Unit 731 in Pingfang and the atrocities that took place there. All throughout, Serizawa also allows her characters to show tremendous depth of varied emotion around what they're experiencing. In doing so, she lets the reader imagine themselves in similar situations and wonder how they might conduct themselves, which is a valuable moral exercise in troubled times.
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"Inheritors" by Asako Serizawa is a collection of stories in various styles and perspectives spanning over 100 years, that paint a kaleidoscopic picture of the effects of loss, imperialism, and war. 

I won this book in a giveaway, and I debated whether I was going to review it, since it's certainly not a book I would pick up on my own accord, but it was definitely an interesting read that took me out of my comfort zone. I'm not a huge fan of short stories, so the book felt a bit disjointed to me even though we're supposedly following several generations of the same family. I did enjoy the different perspectives, points of view, and styles, but several times I felt dissatisfied by the endings of these stories - I will chalk that up to my lack of understanding throughout, and not the book itself. That's all on me. 

While this book won't end up on any my own favorites list, I felt it was extremely well-written, immersive, and able to evoke a myraid of emotions from me, as someone not typically well-versed in historical fiction. I'm not upset I read it by any means, and would like to thank Doubleday Books for hosting the giveaway through which I won this e-copy. I'm excited to see what other people think of "Inheritors" when it's released in July.
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More than just a collection, Asako Serizawa's Inheritors functions almost as a body of stories, with each piece contributing to create a larger, living organism. Set in the US, Japan, and China, the stories follow the lives and decisions of one family during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Heavily steeped in the Second World and its aftermath, this collection looks at the consequences of our daily decisions, how a small or large choice may lead to the end of one life, only to spur a new, different life, even within the same person. Each story swirls and blooms anew in the stories that follow and preceded it, radiating out to create greater meaning and depth within the whole. Extremely relevant now, the book explores and interrogates the means by which we justify our actions and decisions and how we find ways to live with their consequences, especially when those decisions and actions were not what we would have expected from ourselves. This marvelous, brilliant book asks us to not only look at what we ourselves have inherited, but what we leave as an inheritance to those who come after. Inheritors truly is a vital read, an absolutely one-of-kind book that will explode through your life and leave you reeling long after you finish.
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Hmm...I'm not sure what I just read and yet I liked it!  Is this a collection of short stories on the same topic with some of the same characters or is it a novel of intertwined stories?  I will say that not being able to see the family chart at the beginning of the kindle version was a definite impediment.  It's beautifully written from a perspective I have never read before.  It's real and raw and engaging.  It's also confusing as all heck and yet I just wanted to keep reading it. When I finished I was still not sure who everyone was and how they were connected!!  I am now going to search for a review and summary to try to figure it all out.
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All together this is a gripping narrative. There is a family tree in the start of the book but as you read the stories and see the families’ perceptions of each other and how they fit together or how far apart their stories are it paints a very different picture. The stories are from different perspectives spanning the generations and geography, and vary greatly in writing style. 

This variance in writing style was in my opinion both the greatest strength and weakness of the book. Some of the stories were harder follow because of their format and this may be particularly true for readers without much background knowledge of the historical events depicted in the stories. However, as the book continues and the way the stories are intertwined becomes more apparent many of the more confusing details are clarified. The different styles also add a lot of depth to the stories helping to highlight the different personalities and the time period in which the stories are told. I most enjoyed the stories that were told by the characters reminiscing later in life as it showed both their history and the ways these stories were buried over time. Overall the book presents a heart wrenching and thought provoking narrative that was fascinating to read.
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Thank you to DoubleDay Books and NetGalley for the Advanced Reader's Copy!

Available July 14th 2020

When we think of Japan, we are often thinking of a sanitary, clean cut nation; maybe we just think of sushi or the bright and colorful anime world. We don't think about Japan's complicated history, its own internal and external wars and the lingering effects of colonialism. Asako Serizawa's "Inheritors" is a tour de force through modern Japanese history, often drawing on aspects of Japanese culture that we don't see in the mainstream. With a variety of narrative styles, Serizawa's collection of stories is surprisingly cohesive. From a simple tragic tale of a father leaving his family to a heart-wrenching and horrifying account of a true Japanese comfort woman, Serizawa shows the underside of Japan. The realities that Serizawa brings to life should be embraced and acknowledged as a part of history. A well written, emotive collection!
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Told in various prose styles along a non-linear timeline, "Inheritors" is a fascinating collection of short stories chronicling the history of an extended family from the late 19th century to the 2030s. Though it could be a bit difficult to follow at times due to its unconventional style, "Inheritors" compelled me to consider perspectives on events in Japanese history that otherwise would have been foreign to me. (It has a particular focus on World War II and the vignettes that dealt with WWII were especially eye-opening.) I appreciated its sweeping scope and stark beauty, and found myself learning much from its humanistic and often bleak portrayals of Japan's turbulent recent history. It was a bit slow and dense at times, but I would still highly recommend "Inheritors."
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A stunning and magnificent book about World War II in Japan and America that everyone should read. Serizawa's writing is beautiful, brash, and wholly enthralling as she charts the emotions and reactions and relationships that touch on one Japanese family over many generations. Serizawa's tiny details, a sense or proportion, and the ability to write unflinchingly about horror and trauma make this book outstanding.
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