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‘I am Catherine Jane’: a book whose value transcends its style

by Kris Kosaka

Special To The Japan Times

“I am Catherine Jane,” the memoir of Catherine Fisher’s horrific “triple rape” and her tireless 12-year crusade for justice, must be supported.

‘I am Catherine Jane’
Catherine Jane Fisher
VIVID PUBLISHING

Buy this book. Tweet it, like it, pin it, post it in your favorite forum. Buy it first, then spread the word: Your paltry donation of ¥1,019 [for the Kindle version] will serve as solidarity against violence toward women; an indictment of crass, corrupt police work in Japan; and as a defiant protest against political collusion and injustice from the U.S. military and the governments that support it.

Fisher was physically raped in 2002 by Bloke Deans, a U.S. serviceman stationed at Yokosuka. Immediately afterward, she faced a psychological ordeal at the hands of the Kanagawa police force, who subjected her to 12 hours of questioning without food, drink or medical attention when she reported the crime. Finally, the United States government violated Fisher twice — first by giving Dean an honorable discharge, allowing him to leave Japan and flee charges, and then by later disdaining their own “zero tolerance” rape policy by refusing to acknowledge or take responsibility for their own corruption.

Stop reading now and buy this book. It only takes one click. You will be spending 10 times what Fisher received in compensation for her ordeal, and ¥1,019 more than literally hundreds of women raped by U.S. military personnel in Japan have managed to claim in domestic and foreign courts. Last November, Fisher won a landmark case in the U.S., enforcing judgment on the 2004 Japanese civil court case, vindicating her battle for justice and marking the first time ever that a foreign ruling for rape has been validated in a U.S. court.

Despite the Japanese civil court’s 2004 decision to grant ¥3 million in compensation, Fisher accepted only $1 from the U.S. ruling, convinced it was more important to set a precedent for future rape victims. Cynics will point out that Fisher had little hope of receiving money from Deans, based in Wisconsin and facing other legal accusations Stateside. Don’t give in to the cynics. Buy this book.

Read it, however, with caution. Sentences batter and slice with graphic descriptions of Fisher’s violent ordeal. Equally fierce is the writer’s impetuous prose, filled with hyperbole and melodramatic embellishments unnecessary and admittedly jarring in this otherwise sobering account of one woman’s reality. Yet the stark facts and heart of the story must ultimately supersede any snobby literary considerations.

On first reading, I’m ashamed to admit that I fell victim to the same human frailty as the Kanagawa police force: I judged Fisher’s writing by the outer trappings of poor literary style and ineffective storytelling, just as they judged Fisher by her outward appearance, making sexual comments and snide innuendoes about her disheveled demeanor and missing underwear. Although hooked from the beginning by her factual account and details, I squirmed at the too-numerous tangents, the melodramatic accounts of her relationships and her admitted obsession with uncovering any corruption in the Japanese and U.S. governments — from the notorious Unit 731 of wartime Imperial Japan to the “secret agreement” between the two governments that protects American servicemen from local criminal charges.

As a critical reader, I was dismayed; only halfway through the book, I wondered if I could finish. It suddenly struck me how similar my feelings were to those of her perpetrators: a dismissal of the inner heart and drive of this woman who has become a symbol for thousands caught up in similar machinations by those in power. Her honest perseverance humbled me, and I read to the end no longer as a critical reviewer, but as a woman and mother and human, hoping to someday personally thank Fisher for her resilience. Usually a memoir illuminates the writer, but in this case the reader was forced into the glare of some unpleasant truths about insidious prejudice.

Buy this book. Perhaps you will not be able to read every page, but buy it, recommend it to your friends, spread the word and insist others buy it too. In doing so, you show your support not only for Fisher herself but for the weak everywhere, and against domination and violence around the world. By the last page, I sat dumbfounded and ashamed — ashamed of both governments I owe allegiance to as an American living in Japan for nearly two decades, ashamed of myself for daring to hold this woman accountable to some lofty literary ideal of what a memoir should be.

Catherine Jane Fisher emerges finally as an authentic woman who refused to play the game of smiling subservience so common in Japan, who refused to be cowed by those in power — a vulnerable person who refused to be defeated by her own vulnerability. I owe her immeasurably, and so do you. Buy this book.

“I am Catherine Jane” is published by Vivid Publishing, an imprint of Fontaine Press (www.vividpublishing.com.au/iamcatherinejane) Comments: community@japantimes.co.jp