Monday, July 2, 2007

'Yakuza Moon: Memoirs of a Gangster's Daughter' by Shoko Tendo

ISBN: 4770030428
Format: Hardcover, 192pp
Publisher: Kodansha International

Yakuza Moon is brutal, honest, and scary. Shoko Tendo takes you through her turbulent childhood and the life built around her yakuza father. She recounts the many times he came home drunk in the middle of the night and tore the house apart and later beat Shoko. Soon she has fallen in with a tough crowd and has become a yanki, what basically amounts to a juvenile delinquent.

When she gets older she moves on from sniffing paint thinner and ditching school to shooting up and dating married men. She quickly becomes a kept woman who is shuffled about, never really being her own person, and all of this before she is even 23 years old.

Yakuza Moon is hard to read at times. The almost constant abuse that Shoko went through is heartbreaking and painful to read about. It is written in such a direct manner. The hard core drug use, the different boyfriends beating her, attempted suicide, and rape is presented to the reader as simple fact, with a sort of detachment through which you can only feel horror or pity for this young woman.

A lot of things happen off stage, as it were, and you are only treated to the highlights of a very painful past. There are incidents mentioned in passing that are never fully explained. But for the most part it does not distract from the flow of the story. The overall impression is of a young woman who went through hell but came out the other side a stronger person. This is a woman who has earned respect finally, and is not afraid to demand it.

After everything she is strong. The world is full of people struggling to survive and overcome - striving to be the person that they always dreamed that they could be, that they hoped deep down was still inside and had not been killed off by their mistakes. Sometimes the hardest thing to overcome is yourself, the person in the mirror can be your own worst enemy and learning to put the past behind you the hardest lesson to learn in life. Yakuza Moon is a triumph simply because Shoko Tendo overcame the atrocity that her life had become.

“I think a lot about the moon," she says. "How it constantly waxes and wanes, just like my life with its highs and lows. I like to think of myself as having been born under a new moon. Then, in those uncertain days when I was searching for love, I guess the moon would have become a crescent. It was probably about a half-moon when I got married."

But, as the author goes one, "Now that I’m alone, do I warrant a full moon? Have I finally overcome my weaknesses and grown up? I’m heading along a new path in life, but if it turns out to be a dead end, I guess I can start over with the next full moon.”

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