The Translation of Love: A Novel by Lynne Kutsukake

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Lynne Kutsukake is a third-generation ­Japanese-Canadian and first-time novelist, author of The Translation of Love (April 2016), a historical novel. She lives in Toronto, Canada. Discover her biography, her book as well as ratings, comments and more about it.

Lynne Kutsukake has studied Japanese literature and has worked for many years as a librarian at the University of Toronto. Her short stories have appeared in a number of publications.

She writes about Japan in the wake of World War II, a liberated, exhausted and bewildered country, conjuring the voices of an agonized time with graceful simplicity.

For better understanding, a chapter of history and some comments have to be mentioned:

After Japan surrendered in the Second World War, the country was occupied by the Allies under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, who was charged with democratizing the country. This period in Japan’s history is the backdrop for Lynn Kutsukake’s debut novel, The Translation of Love.

Not many people know that at the end of the war, Japanese-Canadians were given the choice of settling east of the Rockies or repatriating to Japan. They were not allowed to return to the west coast, where their homes were. So, 4,000 Japanese-Canadians ended up going to Japan under this repatriation program. In Japan, life for Japanese-Canadians was pretty difficult. First of all, there was the shock of arriving in a war-devastated country. People were starving. There was very little food. There was a lot of despair. Surviving was hard.

Lynne Kutsukake‘s parents were born in Vancouver and they were sent to internment camps during the war, as well as her grandparents on both sides. Her grandparents on her mother’s side did repatriate to Japan, but nobody in her family really talked about the internment, let alone repatriation. It was something Lynne had to learn about as an adult. It was something she had to learn for herself.

The story of The Translation of Love (2016) revolves around two girls, one Japanese and the other a Japanese-Canadian recently repatriated from Canada.


An emotionally gripping portrait of postwar Japan, where a newly repatriated girl must help a classmate find her missing sister

After spending the war years in a Canadian internment camp, thirteen-year-old Aya Shimamura and her father are faced with a gut-wrenching choice: move east of the Rocky Mountains or go “back” to Japan. Barred from returning home to the West Coast and bitterly grieving the loss of Aya’s mother during internment, Aya’s father signs a form that enables the government to deport them.
But war-devastated Tokyo is not much better. Aya’s father struggles to find work, compromising his morals and toiling long hours. Meanwhile, Aya, born and raised in Vancouver, is something of a pariah at her school, bullied for being foreign and paralyzed when asked to communicate in Japanese. Aya’s alienation is eventually mitigated by one of her principal tormenters, a willful girl named Fumi Tanaka, whose older sister has mysteriously disappeared.
When a rumor surfaces that General MacArthur, who is overseeing the Occupation, might help citizens in need, Fumi enlists Aya to compose a letter asking him to find her beloved sister. The letter is delivered into the reluctant hands of Corporal Matt Matsumoto, a Japanese American serving with the Occupation forces, whose endless job is translating the thousands of letters MacArthur receives each week. Although Matt feels an affinity with Fumi, he is largely powerless, and the girls decide to take matters into their own hands, venturing into the dark and dangerous underside of Tokyo’s Ginza district.
Told through rich, interlocking story lines, The Translation of Love mines this turbulent period to show how war irrevocably shapes the lives of people on both sides—and yet the novel also allows for a poignant spark of resilience, friendship, and love that translates across cultures and borders to stunning effect.



One comment

  1. Lynne Kutsukake describes very well the situation of Japan after the WW2. It’s an Interesting, realistic and informative novel. Very few people know about it. In addition, it’s very well written. The characters’ experience is something I will remember. A book that is worth reading!

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