Beyond the Electrical Field

By Jagdeesh Mann

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Her journey to becoming a writer has invariably pulled Kerri Sakamoto to the East, to the place her grandparents left, rungh caught up with Kerri as she stood on the brim of the Pacific, looking westward to the leap she was about to make.

Jagdeesh: As a writer when did that moment of self-actualisation come, that moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

Kerri: It's been a rambling journey that sometimes doesn't feel like a journey at all because it was interrupted at various times. In one interview that I did in New York, this journalist bluntly asked me, 'What took you so long to write this book?' I just thought, 'I don't know.' I guess I'm a slowpoke. I've only really felt comfortable enough to call myself a writer now that I've finished this book. Not so much that it was published, but I think when I finished this book and I had the manuscripts in my hands, and had the sense that I'd written this critical mass and that was the best that I could do.

Jagdeesh: The characters in your first novel are constructed from the experiences of Japanese-Canadians. In what specific way have these experiences influenced your life and your own narrative?

Kerri: I felt that life long struggle with trying to get a sense of who I was - including my racial and cultural identity, and the history that goes with it. Becoming involved with the [Japanese] Redress Lobby gave me a sense of a real concrete political focus for that uncertainty and discomfort with the questions about who I was, and what kind of place I could find for myself in the world. I had these concrete tasks to do and I truly believed in the cause - so that definitely contributed to my writing.

Jagdeesh: In your interview in Shift Magazine, you spoke about not going to Japanese language school when younger as your greatest regret in life. How does that fit into who you are as a writer?

Kerri: That whole rebellion as a child of not wanting to go to Japanese school is a symptom of ambivalence about my own identity as a Japanese-Canadian. I was more interested in French, and Italian and going to Europe. When you grow up where there are very few Asians in the mainly white suburbs you try to run away from what singles you out, especially when you're singled out in a really negative and hurtful way. That's where that came from. I wish that I had been stronger and realised how that would be important to me later in life. I love Tokyo. I just spent a month there researching my next book.

When you grow up where there are very few Asians in the mainly white suburbs you try to run away from what singles you out, especially when you're singled out in a really negative and hurtful way.

Jagdeesh: Any hint about what that next book will be?

Kerri: It's going to be about two sisters who are separated at birth. One has been raised in Canada, in Toronto, and one has been raised in Japan. On their thirtieth birthday the Canadian woman discovers the existence of the other sister. The Canadian sister learns that her sister in Japan is very troubled and suicidal so she goes to Japan to try to help her.

Jagdeesh: The character in your next novel is going back to a distant homeland in the same way as you now seem to be. That's a journey not many writers have made. What do your pioneering senses tell you of this passage?

Kerri: I've spent some time in Seattle, L.A. and San Francisco and I'm so amazed by the links to Asia, and the way that contemporary Hong Kong pop culture has been taken up by third generation Asian-Americans. Those boundaries are all broken down because there's been this whole global access. For the first time, I have movie idols who are Hong Kong or Japanese film stars... and that's neat. Going to Japan, I had this amazing experience of being around this homogeneous Japanese culture, propriety, and milieu. I really do think there's this decline in white icon worship. In Japan, there's still Brad Pitt and Jodie Foster... but really there's more and more mainly Japanese images. So there's empowerment around sexuality. Seeing people in that empowered context - that was really exciting.

Jagdeesh: The process of writing - this journey - has brought Kerri Sakamoto to the Georgia Court in Vancouver this morning. From here where does Kerri Sakamoto go?

Kerri: I'm going back to Japan. I've applied for some grants to stay there for a while. It's fascinating - Tokyo is really an incredible place. People who live there say it's a sci-fi city. The things you see there are really beyond Blade Runner. So that's where I'm headed.

Handprint design by Sherazad Jamal.
Redux Handprint
Kerri Sakamoto
Kerri Sakamoto is an author.
Jagdeesh Mann
Jagdeesh Mann contributed to Rungh Magazine Volume 4 Number 4 - The Journeys Issue.
Rungh Redux Winner 2022 Award of Merit Innovative Practice
Rungh Redux Winner 2022 Award of Merit Innovative Practice
Britannia Art Gallery
Britannia Art Gallery
Bookhug Press
Bookhug Press
Plantation Memories
Plantation Memories
Alternator Centre