Yuki pulled her face away. She couldn’t get used to the concept that anything that lesbians made was wonderful. She did want to support lesbian work even if she thought it was ugly, and she couldn’t stand heteros mouthing off at lesbian work. Watching this bad piece of porn, however, was tortuous. – From “Monalisa Night” by Izumo Marou
Well, you know, I am *so* right there with Yuki. I love to support lesbian work, truly, but so often wonder who the hell it’s for? Not me, certainly. And Japanese lesbian works equally, if not more so, sometimes.
And so I approached this anthology with a full measure of concern that I might find it teh suck. Instead, I have to say – with great pleasure – that Sparkling Rain: And Other Fiction from Japan of Women Who Love Women, edited by Barbara Summerhawk and Kimberly Hughes, is full of awesome and wonderful. With the exception of one story, every single story had at least a few magnificent gems. Not like diamonds in the rough at all, though – like a ring that particularly catches your attention in a jewelry store window.
The anthology begins with introductions by Sawabe Hitomi and Watanabe Mieko, two women who were heavily involved in the lesbian community in Japan. Their insight into the politics and social situations of the time fascinated me. Not terribly surprising, as I’ve been lurking on the edge of their world for so many years.
This is followed by two literary essays, one on Yoshiya Nobuko, the woman I consider to be the great-grandmother of Yuri. These are then followed by about a dozen pieces of fiction, including a story by Natsuko Mori that I had previously read in her Himeyuri-tachi no Houkago collection, and a few translated Plica-chan comic strips, with a breathtakingly honest introduction by translator and scholar Mizoguchi Akiko.
All excellent, but these were not even the best of the collection. “Monalisa Night” is a non-linear multi-perspective tale that follows a number of women in a cubist painting of a story. Uehara Chigusa’s slightly tortuous, but very real “Story of a First Love,” starts off with one of the most honest appraisals of the delusional relationships we create in our own mind. And the title story, Nakayama Kaho’s “Sparkling Rain” is incandescently beautiful, painful, realistic and highly fantastic all at once.
And still, these are not the only treasures in this book. Almost every story stopped me cold with at least one truly remarkable, memorable scene or line. Even as I write this review, I can call to mind a number of scenes that have burned themselves into my memory. These are all stories I will revisit one day soon.
Every story was surprising, every story was interesting and even the ones I did not like, I was glad to have read. This was not just a lesbian work, and so worthy of support – Sparkling Rain is an *excellent* lesbian work and so, worthy of praise and recommendation.
Overall – 9
Seriously, I hope you’ll buy this, because it was truly an extraordinary book.
I want to thank James Welker for making it possible for me to review this, and New Victoria for providing a review copy. If this had been what I expected I would be thanking them politely but, as this book was unexpectedly excellent, I thank them from the bottom of my heart for giving me this opportunity to tell you all about it.