Many writers of fiction who have shared so much as a short story have heard the old question, “Is this autobiographical?” No literary genre, however, plays with the possibility of “what actually happened” as liberally as the Japanese shishо̄setsu, known to Western readers as the confessional I-novel. Originating in the early 20th century, the style is marked by an intimate first-person narrative drawing from personal experience, leaving readers guessing as to what is truthful and what is embellished.

An exciting addition to the genre for English readers is Minae Mizumura’s “An I-Novel,” which was published in Japanese in 1995 and comes out in English early March. The story centers on a character named Minae Mizumura, who, at the age of 12, moves with her family to the United States and is plunged into struggles of belonging.

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