‘Aftermath’ by Mary Yukari Waters

Aftermath by Mary Yukari Waters, 2001

The magic trick:

Personalizing a large-scale cultural transition

This is a beautiful story. The key is taking a historically dramatic moment – in this case, Japan’s transition from American enemy to American ally – and personalizing it. You can learn the history and get a feel for what it meant as a socio-political event. But you can’t really understand the situation until you get down on the ground level and see how those socio-political events affected everyday people’s everyday lives. Fiction, and stories like this, give you that opportunity.

And that’s quite a trick on Waters’s part.

The selection:

In the old days, she tells him, they used to put something inside the rubber balls – maybe a scrap of iron, she wasn’t sure – that made a rattling noise. Toshi, too old now for this sort of amusement, sighs with impatience.

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