Thursday, February 24, 2011

Are You Hooked? #14

TITLE: Made in Japan
GENRE: Memoir

For most participants, the Japanese Exchange Teachers Programme is a chance to see Japan, pay off student debt, find romance, and party like university never ended. But for J.M. Frey, bitter at a disappointing end to what was supposed to be the launch of her academic career, it was a chance to escape to a place she had only ever seen in anime. It was a place to reaffirm her love of prose, grapple with a crippling accident, and discover the person she wanted to be now that the so-called "best years of her life" were over.

I moved to Japan because I hated my thesis advisor.

As ridiculous as it might sound – and in retrospect, how immature – she never knew how close she came to getting a fist in the nose.

If you think I'm employing an excess of hyperbole, I happily invite you to take a stroll into any local Grad lounge and start loudly decrying each of the pet topics of the students present. Ten bucks says that it's the professors that reach you first.

Thing is, people who choose to do an academic thesis do it because there is a topic that they are passionate about; sleep becomes irrelevant in the face of deadlines, coffee replaces blood in the veins when there is a pile of edits to do, and a daunting stack of dusty textbooks that smell like rancid socks becomes a pleasure. Passionate enough to pop you one if you start attacking them without the relevant research to back you up.

Now imagine that you've come to your last year of university with a topic you are passionate about. A topic that you've researched for the whole summer before fourth year, because you wanted a head start on the reading. A topic that you know is right up the alley of the professor that you have requested to be paired with.

Then imagine that the great plodding mess that is usually the administration side of any major educational facility steps in and informs you that no, you can't have that professor.


  1. Love the voice in this and while I would not normally pick this topic of the stacks for a light read, I was pulled in immediately. I can identify with the "passion" describe so beautifully (and without cliche!) And my stomach actually sank as I felt the disappointment at the end. I would definitely read on. Let me know when this is out!

  2. I love the first line! I would keep reading because of it...although the following paragraphs where the reader is "instructed" to think or imagine isn't the kind of writing I usually go for. I'd prefer to be told the story from the perspective of the narrator; but in the long run it might work for this memoir. Based on the excerpt, I'd keep reading at least for a bit.

  3. I really like the voice. I'd read on, even though the subject matter isn't something I'd usually slide off the shelf at the library. The disappointment at the end is palpable, and I'd read on just to see where it leads.

  4. If it wasn't for your strong voice I'd be turned off by being constantly queried as the 'you.' If you tail off from addressing the audience soon, I'd be hooked. Better, on with the scenes in first person, with no freeloaders (me and other readers) along for the ride. Afterall we weren't with you when you did these things, at least I don't remember. All kidding aside, I love your narrative, and I'm a sucker for university stress. I'd read on.

  5. Love the voice and how approachable you make your narrator and the subject.

    I might tweak the beginning of the 2nd sentence in the para about being passionate, just because the previous one is so long and complex that we've forgotten how to link back to passionate. Otherwise, good job! Hooked.

  6. I like the first line, and I enjoy the conversational tone. I'd read on to see where this is going.

  7. "Anime" - Japanese animated television programs or films, like 'Sailor Moon', 'Akira', 'Transformers', 'Naruto', etc. considered an animation genre in and of itself as the animation style is very unique, and the plot lines and character archetypes are also unique to Japan.

  8. I wasn't hooked. Last time I checked, grad students weren't violent when it came to defending their thesis topics. If anything, they were enthusiastic. I think I'd win the ten bucks. ;-)
    What I'm trying to say is that the undertone of discontent, without a stronger premise than hating a thesis advisor, doesn't draw me in. Not getting the professor you want for your thesis, while extremely disappointing, isn't entirely unusual. Moving to Japan to "escape" a thesis advisor strikes me as an overreaction, so I'd pass on this . . . unless, perhaps, a more substantial reason for joining the JET program was articulated up front.