Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto


I put off reviewing this one for a while because I am so torn on it. It’s a beautiful story about love and grief and the families we makes for ourselves… But it also falls dangerously in to a trope of killing off the only trans character to further the story of others.

Kitchen is a novel in three parts; Kitchen part one, which deals with Mikage, the narrator, moving in with Yuichi and his mother Eriko, who is a trans woman. Kitchen part two deals with Mikage and Yuichi’s grief and eventual love after Eriko is murdered in the gay club she runs. It is explicitly stated that she is murdered for being trans and I feel like the story never quite addresses that. Eriko is grieved quite profoundly by every character, but something that is a very real fear and danger for trans women across the world deserved to be more than just a passing paragraph before we focus on how her death affects her son and surrogate daughter’s relationship. So I have issue with the middle section. It is a book originally written in the 80s, but I don’t want to excuse something that could be potentially harmful to some readers.

The third part, Moonlight Shadow, also focuses intensely on grief but introduces entirely new characters. It’s almost a fantasy section, where a mysterious stranger allows a grieving woman to see her dead loved one one more time. 

Kitchen was an interesting read, especially with how it managed to be so immersive in Japanese culture within such a short book. It is beautifully written and translated, but regardless I think there are some very real issues that needed to be addressed. 

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