Greetings, Dundurn readers! By now, you know Yume is about a woman teaching English in Japan whose life turns upside-down while a man traverses the world of demons and dreams in exchange for supernatural protection. Well, lately I’ve been getting questions:* “is it only about dreams and demons?” “How scary is it?” “How many Sailor Moon references are there?” “Are there robots?”
Fear not. The following Sei Shonagon-inspired explanation is here to help. Here are the five main ingredients in the Yume recipe. (The first may be obvious but…act surprised):
(Particularly Japanese food, and not just sushi.) Don’t get me wrong, I love sushi. Especially inari zushi and futomaki! But since the story is about looking beyond what’s visible or tangible and understanding that you’re not always seeing the “whole picture,” Yume name-drops various culinary delights to convey that “more-than-just-sushi” theme. (And yes, making you curious, nostalgic, or hungry was all part of my plan.)
Real talk: I’m one of those “quiet” people who thinks words they would NEVER say. In the face of micro (and macro) aggressions, I stay calm, and if necessary, I’ll excuse myself to avoid reacting to my inner monologue’s cold-blooded clap backs. So perhaps I’m biased, but I love it when someone “quiet” stands up, raises at least one hand, and doles out some well-deserved sass. Yume has quite a few sassy moments. Some work in characters’ favours, while others…well…hmm…let’s move on.
3. Sitcom humour.
Know anyone who loves telling you, “Someday, you’re going to look back at this and laugh”? Well, although no one character explicitly says this, Yume still has “living in a comedy” feels. Prepare for several funny, awkward, and ridiculously uncomfortable situations that feature characters (who often feel awkward and ridiculously uncomfortable) struggling to fit in. Will they look back on all this and laugh? …moving on.
Yume loosely follows the major stages of culture shock, but also outlines Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. An unintentional coincidence that developed during the writing process, but thanks, grad school!
5. “Alice in Wonderland.”
Think of Yume as a zesty retelling of this trippy, seemingly nonsensical classic. It has many allusions (at least 19), and aside from the March Hare, each major character has at least one literary counterpart. (Try to guess which ones! I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.**) Enjoy your journey down the rabbit hole. Yume gets real, and it gets weird.
Bonus: fans of creepy, cerebral films like Black Swan, Donnie Darko, and Eraserhead – have fun! Non-fans needn’t worry! …you have night lights, right?
I hope this gives a better glimpse into the weird, wonderful world of Yume. Lots of thinking, but no wrinkles** involved. Unless you get too scared to sleep. In which case, night lights are your new friends. …you’re on their good side, right?
(*Nope, see “Bonus”, one…make that two, and just one robot)
(**classic Simpsons quote that no one gets anymore)
Sifton Tracey Anipare is a Ghanaian Canadian writer who lived and taught in Japan for four years. She loves video games, bubble tea, Japanese coffee mixes, and is an avid collector of stickers and stamps. Yume is her first novel. Learn more here.