The American writer Suzanne Kamata had lived in Japan for more than half of her life, yet she had never explored the small nearby islands of the Inland Sea. The islands, first made famous by Donald Richie’s The Inland Sea 50 years ago, are noted for displaying artwork created by prominent, and sometimes curious, international artists and sculptors: Naoshima’s wealth of museums, including one devoted to 007, Yayoi Kusama’s polka dot pumpkins, Kazuo Katase’s blue teacup, and a monster rising out of a well on the hour in Sakate, called “Anger at the Bottom of the Sea”—to name a few. Spurred by her teen-aged daughter Lilia’s burgeoning interest in art and adventure, Kamata sets out to show her the islands’ treasures. Mother and daughter must confront several barriers on their adventure. Lilia is deaf and uses a wheelchair. It is not always easy to get onto — or off of — the islands, not to mention the challenges of language, culture, and a generation gap. A Girls’ Guide to the Islands takes the reader on a rare visit by a unique mother and daughter team.
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“[A Girls’ Guide to the Islands] is a young adult book which beautifully captures the unique scenery and special features of each place Kamata and her daughter visit. But also one which vividly portrays life in Japan with a disabled child. Kamata challenges assumptions about disabled people and the obstacles they face with everything from the restroom to the art gallery. By the end …, readers find themselves back home again, full of memories from an unforgettable journey.” —Metropolis Magazine Japan (complete review here)
“[A Girls’ Guide to the Islands] offers multiple perspectives that would appeal to anyone interested in travel, art, accessibly issues or parent-teen relationships. Kamata’s style is as fresh and breezy as the winds that whip the islands she writes about.” —The Japan Times (complete review here)
“A Girls’ Guide to the Islands follows author Suzanne Kamata’s journey with her daughter, Lilia, into the remote realm of the Seto Inland Sea’s world-class art collection. Beautiful in its directness and honesty, A Girls’ Guide examines the nature of accessibility and independence as Kamata and Lilia face challenges physical, emotional and artistic. The trip yields unexpected, occasionally amusing adventures as the two women explore new landscapes as well as their own changing relationship.” —Kelly Luce, author of Pull Me Under
“Heart-lifting and inspiring, A Girls’ Guide to the Islands explores the restorative and often-unexpected way that travel breeds connection not only with the world around us, but within ourselves and—most importantly—each other.” —Nicole Trilivas, author of Girls Who Travel
Suzanne Kamata is the author of the award-winning young adult novel Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible, and the author or editor of a range of books. Originally from Michigan, she now lives in Tokushima, Japan, with her family, and teaches EFL at Tokushima University. Suzanne holds an MFA from the University of British Columbia.