The Men in My Country

Overview

In the early 1990s, at the watershed age of thirty, Marilyn Abildskov decided she needed to start over. She accepted an offer to move from Utah to Matsumoto, Japan, to teach English to junior high school students. "All I knew is that I had to get away and when I stared at my name on the Japanese contract, the squiggles of katakana, my name typed in English sturdily beneath, I liked how it looked. As if it—as if I—were translated, transformed, emerging now as someone new."

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The Men in My Country

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Overview

In the early 1990s, at the watershed age of thirty, Marilyn Abildskov decided she needed to start over. She accepted an offer to move from Utah to Matsumoto, Japan, to teach English to junior high school students. "All I knew is that I had to get away and when I stared at my name on the Japanese contract, the squiggles of katakana, my name typed in English sturdily beneath, I liked how it looked. As if it—as if I—were translated, transformed, emerging now as someone new."

The Men in My Country is the story of an American woman living and loving in Japan. Satisfied at first to observe her exotic surroundings, the woman falls in love with the place, with the light, with the curve of a river, with the smell of bonfires during obon, with blue and white porcelain dishes, with pencil boxes, and with small origami birds. Later, struggling for a deeper connection—"I wanted the country under my skin"—Abildskov meets the three men who will be part of her transformation and the one man with whom she will fall deeply in love.

A travel memoir offering an artful depiction of a very real place, The Men in My Country also covers the terrain of a complex emotional journey, tracing a geography of the heart, showing how we move to be moved, how in losing ourselves in a foreign place we can become dangerously—and gloriously—undone.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Abildskov, a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers Program and now a teacher in California, traveled to Japan a decade ago to find new direction and meaning in her life. While teaching English to school children for two years, she pursued affairs with three somewhat reluctant men: two Japanese and an Iranian. Her focus is clearly on herself, but she skillfully, and with some frankness, chronicles her emotional roller coaster ride through cultural and language barriers (neither of which she really overcomes). Most books of this nature have traditionally been by Western men coming under the spell of Asian women, so in this regard Abildskov's account is refreshing. Introspective, perceptively cross-cultural, poignant, and sometimes funny, this is ultimately a tale of disappointment in the search for love and good reading for those embarking on a similar search. For larger public libraries.-Harold M. Otness, formerly of Southern Oregon Univ. Lib., Ashland Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Finely wrought though often self-conscious memoir of the author's fulfilling sojourn in Japan, where she met three men who completed her sense of belonging. Needing a change at 30, Abildskov left her native Utah in the early 1990s for an assignment to teach English at three junior high schools in Matsumoto. It proved to be much more than a career move. She found herself entranced by everything Japanese: the blue-and-white dishes she used, the holidays devoted to looking, even the pencil boxes-"I loved living in a place where people carried writing supplies in small, tidy bundles made of straw or plastic or metal or wood." But, she writes, "I wanted to go deeper, I wanted to go inside the country's mind, I wanted the country under my skin." To complete her love affair with Japan, apparently, she needed to fall in love with the men who lived there. As Abildskov records her experiences teaching English to businessmen as well as teenagers, she also describes three men she met who enabled her finally to understand Japan more completely. First up was the professor, who spoke excellent English, and he and Abildskov felt a mutual attraction, but she backed off when she realized he was married, though they continued to meet in coffee shops. The second, a young Iranian named Amir, took care of her at a vulnerable time; the third, Nozaki, was the one she fell in love with. Nozaki stood out among the businessmen who attended her classes: he was more of a loner, read widely, and was interested in ideas (the others wanted to talk only about sex and golf). He was also single, and the two began an intense affair. Abildskov was tempted to stay on, but Nozaki, a complex man, was not easily pinned down. Oneof those travel stories that reveals a heart as smitten with the place as the people. Agent: Neeti Madan/Sterling Lord Literistic
From the Publisher

“In this exquisite travel memoir, Marilyn Abildskov unpacks her bags and allows herself to be transformed by all she tastes and touches in Japan: the persimmons, pencil boxes, origami birds, and men—three in particular. The result is an intimate, sensual portrait of a woman and a place. I was enthralled and transported from start to finish.”—Natalia Rachel Singer, author of Scraping By in the Big Eighties

“Marilyn Abildskov is a writer of sheer beauty and rare atmosphere. Each word feels hand-carved from the broken shards of her own life. The Men in My Country is a pathway into longing ‘for ordinary love, for ordinary joy.’ We are brought into soulful dialogue regarding the nature of wanting versus the nature of needing. Japan becomes a rich landscape of love and we accept this exquisite book as the gift of experience. When T. S. Eliot speaks of transient beauty born out of sorrow, he was foreshadowing the writing of Marilyn Abildskov.”—Terry Tempest Williams, author of Refuge, Leap, and Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780877459040
  • Publisher: University of Iowa Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2004
  • Series: Sightline Books
  • Pages: 168
  • Product dimensions: 5.75 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author


Marilyn Abildskov’s stories, essays, and poems have appeared in such magazines as Black Warrior Review, Fourth Genre, Alaska Quarterly Review, and Quarterly West. She has an MFA from the University of Iowa, lives in Berkeley, California, and teaches at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga.
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