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Block Seventeen by Kimiko Guthrie
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Block Seventeen

$17.96 USD

Retail price (USD): $19.95

Discount: 10%

This title is not eligible for purchase with membership credits. Why?

Narrator Natalie Naudus
Length 9 hours 57 minutes
Language English
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Akiko “Jane” Thompson, a half-Japanese, half-Caucasian woman in her midthirties, is attempting to forge a quietly happy life in the Bay Area with her fiancé, Shiro. But after a bizarre car accident, things begin to unravel. An intruder ransacks their apartment but takes nothing, leaving behind only cryptic traces of his or her presence. Shiro, obsessed with government surveillance, risks their security in a plot to expose the misdeeds of his employer, the TSA. Jane’s mother has seemingly disappeared, her existence only apparent online. Jane wants to ignore these worrisome disturbances until a cry from the past robs her of all peace, forcing her to uncover a long-buried family trauma.

As Jane searches for her mother, she confronts her family’s fraught history in America. She learns how the incarceration of Japanese Americans fractured her family, and how persecution and fear can drive a person to commit desperate acts.

In melodic and suspenseful prose, Guthrie leads the reader to and from the past, through an unreliable present, and, inescapably, toward a shocking revelation. Block Seventeen, at times playful and light, at others disturbing and disorienting, explores how fear of the “other” continues to shape our minds and distort our world.

Kimiko Guthrie is the cofounder of Dandelion Dancetheater and a lecturer at Cal State East Bay. She holds an MFA in choreography from Mills College. She lives intergenerationally in the Bay Area with her husband, kids, and parents. Block Seventeen, which was inspired by her experience growing up with a mother who was incarcerated in a Japanese American internment camp, is her first novel.

Natalie Naudus is a Taiwanese American actor who started out as an opera singer, with a master of music from the University of North Texas. She has a passion for stories and characters, and her language training has allowed her to develop a skill for accents and convincing foreign language dialogue. She excels at unique character voices and passionate storytelling. She lives in Virginia with her husband and two daughters.

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“Kimiko Guthrie’s Block Seventeen is one of the most lucid, uncanny—and subtly odyssean—portraits of the afterlife of Japanese American incarceration that I have ever experienced. The ways it unfolds and inhabits, on an intimate level, the daily—even hourly—manifestations of racial melancholy and transgenerational trauma, is breathtaking. As strange as it might sound to say, by the time I reached its final, heartbreaking pages, I felt like I had been invited into a dream, and through it, into an understanding of my own wounded place in the American scenario. Because it is difficult, maybe even impossible, to read Block Seventeen without feeling that you too are surrounded—maybe even guided—by the untold stories and unrelieved traumas of your personal and ancestral past. And yet, in Guthrie’s company, that feeling is as consoling as it is consuming. It is the feeling of homecoming, of magic.”

“At this darkly divisive moment in our republic’s history, Block Seventeen stands as a manifestly timely work that addresses historical trauma, the fragile nature of identity, the folds of history and memory’s fissures. It is replete with surprises, sudden turns, and multiple voices while unblinkingly dramatizing the profound and enduring, intergenerational psychic scars left by the World War II Japanese American internment experience. Yet the novel is not without a knowing, redemptive humor as its characters attempt to find and define themselves not only in the unstable space between two cultures, but in the shifting terrain between past, present, and an unforeseeable future. Its quiet urgency speaks to us all.”

“A layered mystery shrouded in grief, paranoia, and intergenerational trauma, set in the Bay Area but located in the half-hidden histories of many of its residents who lived through the Japanese American internment camps of the not-so-distant past.”

“Kimiko Guthrie has written a breezy, accessible novel that manages to defy multiple genres. Block Seventeen is part love story, part supernatural ghost tale, part family history, and part political thriller, with nothing less than the Japanese internment in America during World War Two—and today’s treatment of immigrants—coursing through its haunted, beating heart.”

“In Block Seventeen, Kimiko Guthrie blends horrors both supernatural and all too real to create a moving portrait of family, love, and the myriad ways trauma can haunt us across generations. This is a beautiful book, one that will linger in the reader’s heart long after its final pages.”

Block Seventeen is a moving, compelling novel about intergenerational trauma and a woman’s process of integrating the various known and mysterious threads of her identity. The narrator, Jane (birth name Akiko), is the daughter of a woman who spent part of her childhood in Japanese internment camps. As the story moves back and forth between the contemporary Bay Area and the camps of the 1940s, we come to understand the tragedies that are passed down through a family, even unarticulated, which shape and, often, contaminate the present. Each of the three women in the book—Jane, her mother, her grandmother—searches for ways to evade unbearable loss, each in her separate context. Kimiko Guthrie has written a book in which what seems like surrealism or even magical realism can be understood as the efforts of troubled souls to make sense of experiences that cannot be rationally explained; in light of what is gradually learned about Jane’s family history, these experiences reveal themselves to be fragments of a painful collective and personal legacy. Guthrie’s book is poetically written and psychologically astute. I loved it.”

“Block Seventeen grabbed me from the first page and held me in delightful suspension till the last. A young Japanese American woman’s current life collides with the unresolved ancestral pain of her foremothers in a swirl of mystery, current-day politics, profound love, and near-madness—all couched in gorgeous prose. Guthrie is an outstanding novelist that I hope we will hear from again soon.”

“Lightning has struck twice with Block Seventeen. With this profound and devastating look at generational trauma, Kimiko Guthrie has not only penned a stunning debut, but a vital work of speculative fiction.”

“Great crimes are never forgotten, and the World War II internment of the Japanese Americans continues to cast a long shadow. Block Seventeen traces parallels between past and present with a story that is sobering, hopeful, and always beautifully written.”

“The reader is taken back and forth in time in an absorbing…narrative that is purposeful in its examination of how we seem to be reliving past horrors, speeding back down the same road, this time on the high-octane fuel of technology. This promising and totally immersive debut, rich in Japanese American culture, is as devastating and evocative as Julie Otsuka’s When the Emperor Was Divine, with a Hitchcockian overlay of suspense.”

“Compelling…A twenty-first-century ghost story offers chills in this…promising debut.”

“In her debut novel, Kimiko Guthrie creates an alternately whimsical and nightmarish thriller in which the mystery seems to remain just out of reach…With Block Seventeen, Guthrie has recreated the fear of the other and created a hauntingly visceral experience that will linger on the fringes of the amygdala.”

“Striking and beautiful, Block Seventeen includes reflections of family, legacy, secrets, and trauma that will shake readers to the core.”

“Together with Jane, we discover that a return to sanity for Jane and understanding for us will require recognition and an embrace of the multi-generational trauma inflicted by the Japanese-American internment of World War II, which we have all labored to deny. I highly recommend this book.”

“A sultry summer story, in which not all is as it seems…[A] powerful, lyrical work…Dorothea Lange and other conscientious photographers documented the internment experience, but nothing feels as real as the squish of mud, the bitter taste of fear, as described by Jane/Akiko and her mother. The other strong comparison I can make is with Margaret Atwood’s The Edible Woman. If you’re the kind of reader who devours Atwood, you’ll probably want to tuck in to Kimiko Guthrie.”

“In this multilayered tale, a Japanese-American woman struggles to make sense of what’s real in her life…Finely written…On one level, it’s an immigrant story. On another, it’s a story of a people betrayed by society. A story of how cultural wrongdoing impacts subsequent generations. And a story of how the children of immigrants attempt to reconcile their American lives with the lives of those who came before them.”

“Guthrie’s unsettling style, winding from present to past and back again, is many things at once: A ghost story, a love story, a family story, a suspense story. It’s speculative fiction with serious roots and contemporary relevance, since Jane’s search leads her through both past and present politics, the kind that vilify one group in order to make another feel safe. Yet her light touch and frequent reminder of small human pleasures (Japanese shaved ice, Cap’n Crunch cereal, a retro wedding dress) make the novel a strangely easy, dreamlike read despite its tough themes.”

“Natalie Naudus brings thoughtful gravitas to the narration of Kimiko Guthrie’s debut…Naudus skillfully navigates between the novel’s two time periods…Her characterizations are authentic and believable, and her ability to capture this novel’s unsettling atmosphere sets this audiobook apart.”

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