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Audrey Hepburns Neck


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About the Author

Alan Brown went to Japan in 1987 as a Fulbright journalist. He lived in Tokyo for seven years, writing for magazines and newspapers and reporting on culture for BBC Radio. His short fiction has appeared in New Directions anthologies and other publications. He lives in New York City.


Writing with the assurance of a born novelist, Brown has produced a witty, touching coming-of-age story that is a keenly observed, diverting depiction of Japanese-American culture clash. Ever since his ninth birthday, when he saw his first Audrey Hepburn film, narrator Toshi Okamoto has fantasized about foreign women. When Toshi, now a young commercial artist in Tokyo, is seduced by Jane, his teacher at the Very Romantic English Academy, he finds the aggressively sexy, self-dramatizing American woman confusing, without realizing that she is psychotic. Not only Americans are unknowable, however; so are Toshi's parents. It was difficult growing up in the small northern town of Hokkaido after his mother left his father, to move not far away across the peninsula, and Toshi has always felt socially uncomfortable and embarrassed because of his parents' estrangement. Theirs had been a household ruled by silence, and one of the secrets Toshi unlocks in the course of this narrative is the reason for his family's sadness and isolation. Meanwhile, however, he undergoes a series of adventures with other Americans: his gay friend, Paul, and the composer Lucy, both of whom teach him some essential truths. These events take place against a backdrop of daily events in postwar Japan, from the 1960s to the 1980s, a society that is changing almost as fast as Toshi's perceptions of life. The Emperor is dying; women are auditioning to become the wife of the Crown Prince; anti-American riots are sweeping the country. Brown tells his tale in spare but vigorous prose, energized by dazzling visual images and haunting metaphors. The reader is caught up in Toshi's fear, excitement and frustration as he encounters strange and amazing Western concepts, and as his notion of himself changes. This captivating first novel is delightfully buoyant and full of surprises. BOMC and QPB selections; film rights to Wayne Wang; author tour. (Apr.)

YA‘A coming-of-age novel set in contemporary Japan. Toshi is haunted by his troubled childhood. Through a series of flashbacks, readers learn that his parents were cold and distant and that his mother left the family when he was eight. One of the few pleasures of the boy's early life was watching Hollywood movies. Toshi finishes his university studies, becomes a comic-book artist, and has a series of affairs with American women. He tries to find his way in the sophisticated world of expatriot society in Tokyo. All of these threads are woven together to create the story of a confused, unhappy young man who is uncertain about how to approach life. When he is called home because of his father's death, he is reunited with his mother, who relates the story of her past. She was a Korean teenager forced into a sex camp for Japanese soldiers during the war, and was rescued and cared for by a young soldier who became Toshi's father. When he learns that truth about his parents and the source of the deep sadness that enveloped them, Toshi is able to accept himself and build a relationship with the woman who loves him. This well-written novel with an interesting mix of characters also presents an amusing view of American customs through the eyes of a young Japanese man.‘Penny Stevens, Fairfax County Public Library, VA

Janice Greene San Francisco Chronicle A fascinating first novel....Audrey Hepburn's Neck is like origami, put together with grace and ingenuity.
Mary Jo Salter Los Angeles Times Book Review On page after page, Brown's touch, both as observer and stylist, is sure and accurate....It's a rare writer who combines such delicacy with a zany sense of humor....[an] acute and acutely funny novel.
David Walton Minneapolis Star-Tribune Audrey Hepburn's Neck is . . . a sweetly sentimental, smartly comical tale.... Very well-written and affecting... Truly pleasurable.... A sure-response winner.

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