By Samantha Pak
Northwest Asian Weekly
By Wesley Robert Lowe
Wesley Lowe Media, 2014
Five years ago, 20-year-old actress Jasmine Huang died in Beijing. She had asked her boyfriend Chris to rehearse with her for an audition for the role of a battered woman.
She was convinced he needed to make the pain real, as this role would be the biggest of her life. Unfortunately, things went too far and Jasmine died.
Haunted by not knowing the truth surrounding her death, Jasmine spent years stalking Chris. She is in Chinatown in Vancouver, B.C. when she learns what had really happened. Feeling at peace with the truth, Jasmine prepares to leave the natural world for the Next Place. But then she hears her daughter Mei-Mei — who she gave birth to eight months after her death — call her back to earth.
“Deadly Love” is Jasmine’s story as she searches for her daughter, who, despite having been born to a ghost, has somehow grown into an energetic and rambunctious 4-year-old. Along the way, Jasmine encounters Buddy, the lecherous ghost of an old Chinese man, and Tanya, a 14-year-old prostitute and her demon pimp (literally) Larry.
Despite her reservations, Jasmine asks for their help in her search for Mei-Mei.
This is a fast-paced story filled with twists and turns that will have readers turning page after page. Everything happens within a short span of time, but not without a lot of mystery.
Despite the story’s short length, Lowe gives us well-developed characters with depth and several facets. In particular, Jasmine, despite being a ghost, is very human. She is not perfect and has her fair share of flaws — from the disdain she feels toward Buddy, to her cattiness with Tanya when the teen gives her attitude, we see she has not lost her sass in death. Jasmine’s personality feels more realistic as we see that she is the same person in death as she was in life.
Yurei: The Japanese Ghost
By Zack Davisson
Chin Music Press Inc., 2015
What would you do if the place where you were living was haunted? For some, the answer would be to move as soon as possible and then try to forget the experience.
But not Zack Davisson. After spending seven months in an apartment in Ikeda, Japan with his wife that had an odd atmosphere felt by everyone who visited and had strange red marks on the ceiling that closely resembled a child’s handprints and footprints, Davisson delves headfirst into the world of the yurei — or spirits — in Japan.
He investigates the origins, popularization, and ongoing existence of yurei in Japan.
From the yurei’s medieval roots, to the first recorded ghost story, to more contemporary examples, such as “The Ring,” Davisson shares the story of Japanese ghost stories and how they came to be.
Woven into the narrative of this history are more than a dozen never-before-translated Japanese ghost stories. Some of these stories are short, only a few paragraphs, while others are lengthier, spanning a couple of pages.
I’ve never been big on ghost stories — having avoided being scared on purpose my whole life — but Davisson’s telling of the yurei’s history kept me turning the page.
His book is focused specifically on yurei, but he also gives readers a glimpse into Japanese history and culture. There are very specific details and nuances surrounding how the Japanese view death, afterlife, and spirits — as with any culture — so it was interesting to learn how these and the yurei have influenced Japanese culture, and vice versa, throughout the course of the country’s history. He also discusses how yurei continues to influence the country’s culture, as well as the West as things become more mainstream.
And while “Yurei” may not have readers believing in ghosts, it will have them thinking twice about what happens to a person after they die.
Of Metal and Wishes
By Sarah Fine
Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2014
At the age of 16, Wen helps as an assistant to her father in his medical clinic in a slaughterhouse. The abattoir is staffed by the Noor, men who have been hired as cheap factory labor.
When one of the Noor workers — a teenaged boy even younger than her — embarrasses her in front of everyone in the slaughterhouse cafeteria, her friends encourage her to turn to the Ghost rumored to be haunting the slaughterhouse to get revenge on the boy.
Wen, not really believing in it, impulsively challenges the Ghost to prove its existence to her. And it does — brutally, as the young Noor boy ends up at her father’s clinic after an accident on the factory floor leaves him unable to work again.
Wen is ridden with guilt and ends up befriending Melik, the group’s leader. She is also enticed by the mystery of the Ghost — said to be a former worker who died on the slaughterhouse floor. With her growing feelings for Melik, a need to appease a spirit hell-bent on protecting her against any threat (real or imagined) and deadly accidents adding fuel to the tension, Wen has to figure out who to trust before it’s too late.
Set in an unnamed industrial Asian community, “Of Metal and Wishes” is a reimagining of “The Phantom of the Opera.” Admittedly, I have never read the novel or seen the musical, but Fine’s retelling has me wanting to look up the original story.
Wen is a complex character, torn between what her current environment has led her to believe and what she has witnessed with her own eyes. She is strong and is not one to shirk her responsibilities — along with others’ — and is someone young readers of any gender could look up to. The society within the story is very divided by its class system, but through Wen’s eyes, readers will question whether this system helps or hinders a community. (end)
Samantha Pak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.