/

‘A Girls’ Guide to the Islands’: A touching reflection on travel, art and parent-teen relationships

by

Special To The Japan Times

Touring art museums with a teenager may not sound like everyone’s idea of a good time, and at the beginning of this pocket-sized memoir, Shikoku-based writer Suzanne Kamata finds herself wondering how she can renege on a promise to take her daughter to a Yayoi Kusama art exhibit in Osaka.

A Girls’ Guide to the Islands, by Suzanne Kamata.
100 pages
GEMMA OPEN DOOR, Nonfiction.

Traveling for the duo is fraught with more than the typical difficulties: Kamata, an American, uses sign language to communicate with her daughter, who copes with hearing challenges and gets around by wheelchair. However, after the Osaka trip is successful, Kamata vows to take advantage of her daughter’s burgeoning interest in art and embarks on a mother-daughter odyssey to visit some of the stunning exhibits scattered around the islands of Japan’s Inland Sea.

In the process the pair build more than memories, as seeing things through her daughter’s eyes is a catalyst for new discoveries and self-reflection for the author. Meanwhile, her daughter emerges as a character in her own right, as colorful as Kusama’s famous dotted pumpkins.

This book offers multiple perspectives that would appeal to anyone interested in travel, art, accessibly issues or parent-teen relationships. Kamata’s style is as fresh and breezy as the winds that whip the islands she writes about,

As the book closes, Kamata offers the bittersweet observance that her daughter, now in her mid-teens, is gravitating more toward friends than family, making Kamata all the more glad she made the effort to travel together. Kamata’s fans are likely to be grateful, too.