Congratulations to Kaya author Gene Oishi who won the 2016 Association for Asian American Studies Best Book Awards in Creative Writing: Prose for his novel Fox Drum Bebop!
The selection committee remarked in their citation: “Gene Oishi said in a recent interview that it took him 50 years to write his first novel, which we honor today, and that it would likely take him another 50 years to compose another. ‘I’m 81 years old and a slow writer,’ he explained only half-jokingly. It was worth the wait.
An historically important but aesthetically vibrant work, Fox Drum Bebop displays an expansiveness of time, space, and scale but never diminishes the individuality of its protagonists. Likewise, its central story of a Japanese immigrant family before, during and after its incarceration in an internment camp reveals a richness and diversity of experience that isn’t reduced to grief or trauma. While the ostensible historical narrative is well trodden—how Japanese Americans struggled and suffered the internment—Oishi’s approaches this narrative with unexpected stories, tales that include moments of levity through jazz, adventures in Europe, engagements with other people of color.
While Fox Drum Bebop takes a long view of US history, the novel doesn’t read ponderously; structurally, it is concise and coherent without losing deep affect and pathos. Oishi’s spare language and imagery allows for intense, visceral and emotional attachment, but one also without sentimentality. Oishi’s reader is left with a sense of its sweeping scope and an equal sense of awareness and often empathy with each character’s decisions and foibles. Fox Drum Bebop is indeed a novel written with wit and wisdom, one that perhaps necessarily marinated for half a century for its story to be told.”
The Association for Asian American Studies strives to honor exceptional literary works within the Asian Diasporic community with its annual Best Book Awards given in the categories of Prose, Poetry, History, Cultural Studies, Literary Criticism, and Social Sciences. The 2016 awards will be presented to the winning authors at this year’s Annual Meeting of the Association for Asian American Studies on April 28–30 in Miami, Florida.
Fox Drum Bebop is Oishi’s debut novel and explores the complex emotional and psychological repercussions arising from the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII.
Cheers to Gene Oishi for this honor!