by Suzanne Kamata
Leap Frog Press
Suzanne Kamata touches a nerve, something that may be too painful for some to read. In Losing Kei, she tells the tale of a young mother far from home fighting to regain a son lost permanently due to divorce.
In Japan, divorce represents the severing of two “ie,” or households. If there are children, they almost always are awarded to the mother. The children will henceforth have nothing to do with their father; he is literally “dead” to them. (A very public example is the case of former Prime Minster Junichiro Koizumi, whose now grown children did not see him for more than a decade following his divorce.) In the case in which the mother is foreign, however, custody is nearly always awarded to the father - and the mother is now the one who no longer exists.
Shared custody or visitation rights remain unheard of.
The first ten pages are painful to read. Jill is waiting in a park for a glimpse of her son on his way home from school. Even this small act of defiance - and tenderness - is utterly crushed. She is supposed to be “dead,” and is failing to uphold that illusion.