What Do I Read Next?
Many readers have found that Yoshimoto’s novels remind them of Mexican writer Laura Esquivel’s best-selling novel Like Water for Chocolate, published by Doubleday in 1992. As in Kitchen, food is the primary cure for love and loss in this book, which is structured like a cookbook.
At the same time that Banana Yoshimoto’s writing was capturing international attention for its portrayals of women in modern Tokyo, Tama Janowitz was establishing the same sort of reputation for her characters in New York City. Her 1986 collection of short stories, Slaves of New York, offers a vastly different look at the other side of the world.
One of the most famous Japanese novelists to be printed in English is Tanizaki Junichiro, whose novels mainly explored the struggle between traditional values and modern culture. His most famous novel, Some Prefer Nettles, concerns an unhappy marriage in which a westernized wife and a traditional husband try to stay together despite their differences. Published in Japan in 1929, it became an international success when the translation was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1955.
Kenzaburo Oe is a Japanese author who was the recipient of the 1994 Nobel Prize for Literature. Like Yoshimoto, he became famous while still quite young. He received national attention when he was twenty-three, with the publication in 1958 of the novella Shiiku, which translates to English as “The Catch.” It is available in the collection The Shadow of Sunrise, published in 1966 by Palo Alto Press.
The dust jacket of Kitchen compares the work to the early writings of French novelist Marguerite Duras, which also create an eerie mood from their tight prose. Her best works can be found in Four Novels by Marguerite Duras, published in 1965.
The differences between eastern and western cultures have been explored recently in the work of Japanese-American author Ruth Ozeki. Her 1998 novel My Year of Meats, concerns a Japanese couple trying to have a child and contrasts contemporary trends like agribusiness and food additives with Japanese tradition.