Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Changing Nature of Dear Miss Breed’s Popularity

Three years after its publication, there has been a definite change in how the Japanese translation of Dear Miss Breed is being received by the public. The translation was published by Kashiwa Shobo in mid-2008. During the first year, I remember, reviewers were all syndicated professionals. They mostly gave very favorable comments which seemed to trigger a chain reaction of similar reviews. Mr. Seinosuke Nakashima, an art historian and essayist, highly recommended the book for young people, which I very much appreciated. I also received a personal thank-you from a reader for my translation effort.

Dear Miss Breed, the original English book by Joanne Oppenheim may have been first introduced to the Japanese in 2007 in an article written by Dr. Keiichi Ogawa for the Kanagawa Newspaper prior to the release of my translation. Dr. Ogawa, a Yokohama City Library Headmaster, visited San Diego City Library in early 2007. (San Diego is the sister city of Yokohama.) His visit happened to coincide with Clara Breed’s 100th birthday and was presented with Joanne’s book. He raced through the book on his return flight to Japan and was very impressed. He submitted his book review to a local newspaper. I was working hard on the translation at the time not knowing about Dr. Ogawa’s review. Unintentionally, I did a search on Dear Miss Breed online and found a fervent plea from one of the readers of the Kanagawa paper who commented,“Can someone please translate the book for me?” I was surprised and intrigued. I contacted Dr. Ogawa to inquire about the background of his introduction while speeding up the translation process. I got a personal thank-you from that young reader in Kanagawa when the translation was finally published.

The new trends I mentioned at the outset are l) the book is now being read by young children and 2) Miss Breed has become a role model for librarians.

l) I'm happy to see my translation being classified as a “non-fiction picture book." A monthly magazine called "Bookshelves for Children" and a research firm, "Books for Japanese Children," both named Dear Miss Breed as their top selection. My original intent was to target children even though I received many comments that the subject matter may be a little too harsh for children.

2) Librarians from major cities including Yokohama, Shizuoka, Fukuoka and others created a traveling "Tamashii Juku" or "Tamashii School" training Symposium. The first symposium was held in Shizuoka and I heard they used "Clara Breed" as a role model and used my translation as the textbook. I heard many public libraries are equally enthused and are following the lead of Yokohama and Shizuoka librarians. A book called Librarian, the Sorceress was published recently.

No comments: