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Turning Japanese

Turning Japanese

4.7 9
by Cathy Yardley

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The Devil Wears Prada meets Lost in Translation in this irresistible new novel from L. A. Woman author Cathy Yardley

Meet Lisa Falloya, an aspiring half-Japanese, half-Italian American manga artist who follows her bliss by moving to Tokyo to draw the Japanese-style comics she's been reading for years. Leaving behind the comforts of a


The Devil Wears Prada meets Lost in Translation in this irresistible new novel from L. A. Woman author Cathy Yardley

Meet Lisa Falloya, an aspiring half-Japanese, half-Italian American manga artist who follows her bliss by moving to Tokyo to draw the Japanese-style comics she's been reading for years. Leaving behind the comforts of a humdrum desk job and her workaholic fiancée, Lisa has everything planned---right down to a room with a nice Japanese family---but hasn't taken into account that being half-Asian and enthusiastic isn't going to cut it. Faced with an exacting boss and a conniving "big fish" manga author, Lisa risks her wedding, her friends, and her fears for a shot at making it big.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

An unexpected win in a comic-book competition sends half-Japanese Lisa Falloya to Tokyo for a yearlong manga publishing internship in Yardley's chipper new novel. Lisa lands in Tokyo, where she stays with a dysfunctional host family and gets smacked with culture shock. The story picks up when, despite her lowly status, Lisa decides to champion a comic-book idea proposed by a fellow editor. When she also gives a boost to a talented young artist, she incurs the wrath of tyrannical manga star Nobuko. Lisa's discovery of her own inner fire as an editor and her attempts to navigate a rigid hierarchy give a bit of fire to the story, with further complications arising when her controlling fiancé pressures her to return home early. Yardley doesn't take the obvious ways out, and Lisa's trip to confidence and assertiveness has plenty of girl power verve. (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From the Publisher

“Sharp, wise, and original, Turning Japanese is a hilarious take on what it really means to be a hyphenated American in a foreign land - Cathy Yardley loses nothing in translation.” —Beth Harbison, New York Times bestselling author of Shoe Addicts Anonymous

“Witty, endearing, and completely authentic . . . a whirlwind trip to the East. Cathy Yardley's sharp and exacting portrayal of life as an American in Japan is genuine and insightful.” —Cara Lockwood, author of I Do (But I Don't) and Dixieland Sushi

“Chipper…Yardley doesn't take the obvious ways out. Lisa's trip to confidence and assertiveness has plenty of girl power verve.” —Publishers Weekly

“A smart, funny, and insightful novel about finding yourself (literally and theoretically!) halfway across the world. I loved accompanying Lisa to Japan.” —Melissa Senate, author of See Jane Date and Questions To Ask Before Marrying

“Adventurous, moving, and just plain fun.” —Lauren Baratz-Logsted, author of Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes

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St. Martin's Press
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Turning Japanese

By Cathy Yardley

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2009 Cathy Yardley
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-5344-3



I had been minding my own business as I waited at the crosswalk, but this made me look over. The person — sort of — who asked the question was easily six foot two. His bald head was an ominous medley of red and black, with small horns scattered about. His eyes were blazing yellow. He had to weigh in at three hundred plus pounds, and his robes were thick, some rough weave, in a solid black. He was sweating profusely.

"Sure is," I finally said, before getting jostled by a group of hobbits, with pointy ears and curly hair, who were apparently complaining about their hotel room. The big guy was still staring at me expectantly, and I found myself adding, "But back home in New York, it's hot and humid. Like they say, at least this is a dry heat."

"Oh? You're from New York?" His yellow eyes lit up, and I immediately regretted giving him the opening. He had successfully initiated a conversation. I should've known better. "The city? I love the city! I was there for a different convention, a few years ago ..."

"No. Groverton." I watched him stare at me blankly, then I laughed. "It's a tiny town, upstate."

"So you're just in San Diego for the Comic-Con?"

"Um, yup," I said.

"I'm Chad Pennington," he said. "I'm local. Oh, and I'm also Darth Maul."

"I'm Lisa Falloya," I answered politely, before gesturing to my noncostume clothes. "And ... I'm not anything else."

Just then the crosswalk sign lit up and I started moving, carried by the wave of the convention-goers. I darted ahead, because the friendly guy who'd started the conversation was a Star Wars guy, and I knew from experience that most Star Wars guys could talk for hours. I just wanted to get to the convention and find my friends Stacy and Perry and maybe convince them to go home a day early.

It wasn't that the convention was too weird, even though I was surrounded by people dressed as everything from comic-book and video-game characters to monsters and, in one funny incident, a human Three Musketeers bar. Actually, I liked the atmosphere. I even liked the people. Darth Maul, my crosswalk buddy, was probably a very nice guy, if possibly overtalkative.

It wasn't the city. As far as cities went, San Diego was really as lovely as everyone said. It was eighty-nine degrees, and locals were acting like it was the apocalypse. If this were Groverton, people would be commenting on how unseasonably balmy the day was. The sky was an impossible blue, and the air was bone dry. It was as close to heaven as you could come, after Groverton's sweltering heat.

And it wasn't that I missed my boyfriend, Ethan ... although I did, terribly, because I always did when I was traveling. Of course, it wasn't like I traveled extensively, either. In fact, my annual trek (no pun intended, for those Star Trek fans I felt sure were crawling around) to the Comic Book Convention every August was the only traveling I did. Which was why I was now feeling the aftereffects.

"There you are!"

I finally saw Stacy and Perry, my two best friends, walking toward me. Stacy was a short, somewhat stocky redhead with a matronly disposition. Thirty-four years old, she looked like a cross between a fairy godmother and a linebacker. Perry, on the other hand, was very tall, almost six-five, with corn silk blond hair. He was whipcord thin and lanky. Even at twenty-eight, he looked like he was maybe nineteen. Fortunately, neither of them were wearing costumes, although Perry was wearing a Green Lantern icon T-shirt.

"You missed so much," Stacy said, sounding out of breath.

"It's only ten thirty," I pointed out.

"Yeah, but they were showing movies this morning. I got to see Steamboy," Stacy gushed.

"You've seen that like thirty times," Perry pointed out. "I met a few cool artists and got my Camelot 3000 copy signed. Finally."

"Cool." We were all friends in geek, as Stacy used to say. It was nice to have best friends like this, the same since junior high. Apparently, it was really rare. "I was tired, though."

"Staying out too late, huh?" Perry said.

"Yeah. You guys both know I don't get out much at home," I said, with a sheepish grin. "Ethan usually stays in and studies, and since I started seeing him, I only go out for our anime club." I decided to lay the groundwork for my next request. "Besides, you know I don't really get along with traveling ..."

"It's a nice change for me," Stacy said, her voice positively perky despite only getting a few hours of sleep. "Between Roger needing to get up early to go to work and Thomas only being two and a half ... that whole first year, I was getting no sleep. I wasn't even getting a shower every other day, much less going out!"

"Well, at least you're back at the Con," I said. "You've had a great visit, and I'm sure you miss Roger and Thomas anyway ..."

Stacy sighed as the three of us joined the crowd crushing into the convention center.

"Yeah, but I don't know how long I'll be able to keep coming here. Roger's been talking about having another kid. Maybe trying for a girl, this time. So this could be my last Comic Convention for a while." She sounded strained, as if perkiness was warring with the grimness of that announcement.

"Yeah, but Thomas was totally worth it," I reminded her. He was my godson, after all, and he was an amazing kid. I was starting to feel a bit bad at what I was about to ask. "The thing is ..."

Perry rolled his eyes. "No, Lisa, you can't go home early."

I blinked at him. "How'd you know?"

Even Stacy shook her head. "Because you do this every year. You're fine the first day or two, but by day three you're dragging, and by the fourth day you're begging to catch an earlier flight."

"And you'd realize that every year we tell you no," Perry added. "Besides, if you leave now, you'll miss the announcement!"

I quavered internally. That was a big part of why I was so gung-ho on leaving early, I had to admit.

This year I'd actually entered one of my hand-drawn comics in a competition. The company was a big Japanese publisher, one that I'd been reading for years, and when I saw that they were asking for entries from the United States, I'd allowed myself a glimmer of hope.

Of course, I'd probably have left it a glimmer if it hadn't been for my meddling friends. Once Stacy and Perry found out, I'd had to fight them as they browbeat me for another month to enter one of my amateur comics in the thing. So I'd closed my eyes, held the proverbial gun to my head, and pulled the trigger by mailing that sucker in.

Today, I'd find out if I made it.

"I have almost no chance," I said, both to argue my case for leaving early and to try and quell my own hopes. Why get worked up? I probably had a better chance of winning the lottery. "You guys both know that. I mean, how many people here probably entered?"

"It's a great story, and your drawings were cute," Stacy argued. "Come on! It'll be another half-hour. We need to get to that pavilion."

"I should get something to eat," I said, trying to postpone the inevitable.

The thing was, I'd had the dream for the past few months. This probably sounds totally pathetic, but once I heard the winner announced, and if it wasn't me, well, I would lose that delicious feeling of possibility.

Of course, the counterargument would be, but what if I won.

It was a traitorous internal voice, the same one that had prompted me to start drawing the comic in the first place. As usual, I tried to ignore it. Nothing broke your heart like that little voice, I swear to God.

"I'll meet you guys at the Sansoro Publisher booth," I said, and they nodded, although Perry made a menacing gesture — you'd better be there, he seemed to say.

I headed for the hideously overpriced concession stand, intent on grabbing a hamburger, fries, and a Coke. The breakfast of conventioneers, I thought with a grin. But before I could get on line, my cell phone vibrated in my pocket. I glanced at it, then smiled.

"Hi, Ethan," I answered, ducking into a corridor and covering my other ear with my hand. "It's so good to hear from you. I miss you!"

"How are things at Nerd Central?" he asked, then laughed. "Been picked up by any more Star Trek guys?"

"Star Wars," I corrected. "And Darth Maul tried to get me into a conversation at the crosswalk, but I escaped."

He chuckled again. "How's it going? Homesick yet?"

We'd been going together for three years now, and he knew me probably better than anybody. "Terribly homesick," I admitted without shame. If you couldn't be puny and miserable with your boyfriend, then he wasn't much of a boyfriend, right? "But it's just another day and a half."

"That's my girl," Ethan said. "It's good for you to get out."

He was always saying stuff like that. The only non-Con travel I'd done was with him: a vacation to Florida, a trip to Toronto, even a trip to meet his parents near San Francisco. Being with him did ease the traveling malaise, just like being with Stacy and Perry helped. Usually because they wouldn't let me wallow in it, I thought. "So how are things going for you? Working hard?"

"I'm just getting stuff closed out and ready for when the semester starts up again in September," Ethan said.

"I thought you could coast this year, relatively speaking," I said, finally getting on line behind a couple dressed as Superman and what I had to assume was Lois Lane, circa 1940. "I mean, it's your last year."

"Yeah, but I'm going to try to get a different job, maybe in the city, remember?"

Of course I remembered. I'd known about The Plan, as he called it, since the day I met him. I think he'd somehow worked it into his pickup line. We'd introduced ourselves, said what we did. He'd said, "I'm Ethan Lonnel, and I'm getting my MBA before getting a job in the city. Probably a director of operations."

I'd been impressed, since I just said I worked at the Philson semiconductor plant in Groverton. Everybody I knew, practically, worked at The Plant, as they called it — it being so huge and overpowering that it needed no further clarification. I had a job, and that was as far as it went. He, on the other hand, had A Plan. Or rather, The Plan.

"That's awfully together of you," I'd said, impressed. "You sound like you like what you do."

"I love what I do," he'd answered, and his grin had been amazing.

"I like a man who loves what he does," I'd found myself saying, even though I suddenly realized I had rarely met anyone, man or woman, who fit that description. We'd been together ever since.

"So I need to ace this year, especially the outside projects," he said. "I'm going to be busier this year than ever."

I sighed silently. I barely saw Ethan these days as it was. I knew better than to complain, though. Not that he'd reprimand me or anything. It would just make him feel guilty, which would make me feel bad since I knew how important The Plan was to him. It was better to just avoid discussing anything but details.

"Don't worry. After June, it'll all get better," he promised, and I knew that, too. "But, yeah, until June it's going to be rough. I won't get to see you that much."

I made a little noise of acceptance, a sort of yuh-huh, even as I felt loneliness curl around the edges of my consciousness. "Well, it's just a year," I said, with forced perkiness.

"Then, everything we promised," he said, and I warmed at the tone of his voice. "Hell, you probably won't be a single girl for very much longer. You should take advantage of it. Go out and raise hell with your friends. See the world. Stuff like that."

"Oh, you know me," I said, motioning to what food I wanted and paying the cashier for it. "World-traveling hell-raiser."

"I just feel bad, having to leave you alone all the time," Ethan said.

"No problem." I grabbed my tray of food and juggled the phone. "You're worth it."

"That's definitely my girl," he said. "Listen, I gotta go ... need to buy books and stuff. I'll call you tonight."

"Love you," I said, reluctant to lose contact.

"Love you, too." He hung up.

As I made my way to the Sansoro booth, I tucked the phone into my pocket, and then found Stacy and Perry. There was a good-sized crowd, all of whom were undoubtedly anime and manga buffs — that is, all fans of the Japanese cartoons and comics that we, meaning me and all my friends, were wild about. They were talking in low, excited murmurs. There was a delegation of people from the publisher up on the stand, and the podium was empty but spotlighted — obviously waiting for the grand announcement.

"Did I miss anything?" I asked, before taking a bite of burger. I grimaced at Perry when he stole a fry.

"Not a thing. But any minute now," Stacy said, unable to keep still in her seat.

I plowed through my food, as if eating would somehow force my jittery stomach to focus on something other than the impending announcement. I finished, and they still hadn't said anything, so I got up to throw out my trash, making my way over people's feet, since Stacy and Perry had grabbed seats in the middle of the room. I was at the trash can when a man stepped up to the podium.

"We at Sansoro were very pleased at the number of entries that came in for our very first American manga contest," he said. He was Japanese, but his accent was very slight. "The entries themselves were very impressive, and we had a very difficult time picking out only one final winner. The judging process went as follows ..."

The pleasantries went on for a while, and I was seriously considering just hovering along the edges of the crowd, and then bailing before Stacy and Perry could see me. Just for a little while, just to get my bearings. Don't get your hopes up, don't get your hopes up, I muttered to myself, pressing my hands against my stomach.

The burger was probably a bad choice.

I would find out in a second. Then, after the letdown (which I'd felt so many other times, in other contests), I'd just hang out and watch a movie or check out the other booths; then I'd get to pack and go home, back to the routine. Not that thrilling, admittedly, but ...

"And the winner is ... sertgh burglethetir!"

I stared. The microphone had burbled, or something. That had made no sense.

The crowd was applauding, and I had the vague impression that Stacy and Perry were screaming. Yes, screaming.

The Japanese man at the podium scanned the crowd. "Is she here today? We were told she'd registered."

I stared at Stacy and Perry, who were gesturing to me wildly. What the hell had just happened? Did I have an aneurysm and miss it, or something?

The man cleared his throat. "I repeat ... the winner of the grand prize of a one-year internship at Sansoro Publishing is ... Lisa Falloya!"

A MONTH later, the shock still hadn't worn off.

"Well, of course you're going," Stacy said, taking a long drink from her milk shake. "Tell me you're going!"

"I have another week to make up my mind," I said defensively.

I had all but passed out, hearing I'd won the contest. Now we were back in Groverton, sitting at MegaBurger after an anime club meeting, having our usual shakes and burgers. And from the moment that I had discovered I'd won, I'd had a barrage of commentary from Stacy and Perry.

"Why the hell wouldn't you go?" Perry asked, before taking a huge bite of burger and devouring it in nanoseconds. For a skinny guy, he could really pack it away. "It's Japan, for chrissake! Only the coolest place on earth! Do you know what I'd give to live over there for a year? To get somebody else to pay for me to live there for a year?"

"So you go," I said, only half joking.

"Oh, don't start with that," Stacy snapped. "You've got an opportunity to see how a manga publisher works. We've only been reading the stuff for forever, and you get to actually spend a year doing something other than order semiconductor parts! You've got to be insane to not see how phenomenal that is!" She dipped a fry into the pool of ketchup she had smeared on her plate. "I'm with Perry. I would kill to do what you're going to do!"

"And you could come back, and tell everybody you were a manga-ka!" Perry said, as if that settled the argument completely.

"I wouldn't make it to manga-ka," I said, using the term that meant manga artist. "I keep reminding you, I'm American. They don't make Americans manga-ka."


Excerpted from Turning Japanese by Cathy Yardley. Copyright © 2009 Cathy Yardley. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Cathy Yardley is the author L.A. Woman, Couch World, and Will Write for Shoes. She has written eight romance novels for Harlequin and a trilogy of romantic fairy tales for Avon Red. She lives in Oceanside, California.

Cathy Yardley is the author of the Fandom Hearts series, starting with Level Up, and needs to get out more. When not writing, she's usually lurking on social media, playing Fallout 4, or watching D-list movies and adding to her unnatural mental store of character-actor trivia. She's a fangirl of Supernatural, Doctor Who, Sherock, LOTR, and too many others to name. She lives with her family in Seattle. They are considering performing an intervention for her addiction to pop culture.

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Turning Japanese 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
SecretDuckie More than 1 year ago
Really great read! Short, which made me sad, but fun and cute. It's really easy to fall into the story and live vicariously through 'Risa-san'. If you love Japanese culture or are just interested in it's media, this is a really fantastic story!
Shimmerychick More than 1 year ago
I bought this book in hopes of getting a light read...instead I got one of the best reads ever! I admit that I am fascinated by all things Japanese and all the elements of this book were really interesting. The way Cathy Yardley intertwined some facets of the Japanese pop culture made me feel like I was there and yet, not beaten over the head with it (like Lost in Translation). This book was a wonderful quick read (three nights at the gym on the stairmaster for an hour and fifteen minutes)and page turner. Some elements of the story were predictable but not all....it gets my vote for a favorite light read. I will seek out anything Cathy Yardley writes in the future!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Entertaining unique plot. Well written, I was so involved with the characters felt I was right there with them. Great read.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Oh kay then