The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami, translated Allison Markin Powell

Women in Translation Month begins again!

For those of you not familiar, every August we take some time to seek out women authors whose books have been translated into our language. This came from Biblibio after discovering that only 3% of books published in the US are books translated from other languages and of that 3%, only 30% are books written by women. Here‘s a quick WIT Month FAQ from Biblibio. The University of Rochester keeps a site dedicated to international literature here. One of it’s features is tracking books that have been translated into English that gets updated every year as well as the male/female ratio of these translations by author and translator. A database of all books translated since 2008, that could be found here.

The Nakano Thrift Shop is my first WIT book of the year and a great one to start out with. It was first published in 2005 but I had begun hearing about it a year or so ago in conjunction with WIT Month. The story follows Hitomi, one of the workers at the Nakano Thrift Ship, mostly during the time she works there. Throughout the novel, Hitomi is figuring things out.

She’s figuring out her coworkers, her place in the world, her love life, the convoluted history of her boss and the women he interacts with. Her curiosity about all these things is a big part of what makes her a fun protagonist. She eavesdrops and gossips and engages with the others in making leaps of judgement but it all seems in good fun and in a manner much lower key than one finds in an American novel. I get how that can sound to some, but I’ve known plenty of people who have worked in retail and store fronts similar to this and it felt like a good representation. No one gets terribly out of hand, they’re all just curious about each other’s lives outside of the shop and enjoy conversations about it.

Overall, it’s a book about life and the ebbs and flows and the people who come in and out of it. It covers that period of youth when we are still figuring out who we are and the kinds of people we went to surround ourselves with. I enjoyed the characters, watching them interact and watching them grow, well for those that grew. I’d definitely recommend it to others, but I found it the kind of book that one needs to be in the mood for. It’s just not ideal for those days when I need a pick me up, or excessive escapism. But it is definitely a good book for when I want to read and see a little more about how other people live, which is a mood I get into also.

Join us for WIT Month! Feel free to add the names of books or links to your reviews of WIT authors!

Here is the link to save The Nakano Thrift Shop to your Goodreads TBR.

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