Read of the Week: Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

Before he departed, our wonderful Monitoring and Evaluation Intern, Gareth shared a favourite for Read of the Week. Here’s his take on Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan.

“At noon, the girls from Copy went out and came back with tuna salad sandwiches that they ate while perched on the top of the white radiator banks of the reception room.

‘Hi.’

They ignored her. At the end of the day young men showed up in the waiting room to collect: Alice, Maybel, Claire, Wanda, and the rest. She called the copy pool to announce their dates had arrived at the office. Each girl flounced to the door without a wave. Was it because she was young? Japanese? Yuki thought about quitting.”

Yuki is a girl who doesn’t feel like she belongs. Born to Japanese parents and brought up in New York, she neither relates to her Japanese heritage nor fits in with her American peers. When her mother and father announce their plans to move back to Japan, she chooses not to go with them. Instead, she moves in with her only friend, the confident and cut-throat Odile. Unlike her bold and brash friend, Yuki lacks the self-belief to pursue her desired career as an artist. Eventually, Odile leaves to pursue a career in modelling. Yuki is left alone.

Buchanan’s debut novel is a fascinating and challenging read. It pries open that gaping hole in all of us that desires to belong. Sad, poignant, tinged with hope, if you have ever felt out of place or feel like you don’t fit in, then Yuki may be a character you can relate to.

“Yuki circled back to her son. “I love you,” she said a last time.

She might be gone for a whole month. She might even be gone for two or three…. She just needed to find somewhere clean and clear to think. She would find a way of loving that didn’t maim. Then as soon as she was worthy of these people, she’d come back.”

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