My Brother’s Husband (Volume 1) by Gengoroh Tagame, translated by Anne Ishii
Talk about a new kind of family … on many levels, especially in Japan where traditions are at times more binding than actual laws. Take a closer look at that cover: that’s Kana in the middle, flanked on the right by her divorced (but still very attached to his ex) father, Yaichi; to her left is her Canadian uncle-by-marriage who was (legally) bound to her father’s twin brother who’s recently died. Got all that?
“I had no idea,” Kana exclaims, returning from school one day to (very) unexpectedly discover Uncle Mike Flanagan in her home. Understandably shocked, Kana learns she had a gay uncle who looked just like her dad, who left home a decade ago, who all but disappeared from the family, who married to a foreign man, and never, ever returned.
Recently widowed, still very much in mourning, Mike has traveled to Japan to discover and explore his Ryoji’s past. A self-admitted otaku (“Japanophile”), Mike is surprisingly adaptive in his new surroundings, especially grateful when Yaichi reluctantly invites Mike to stay in Ryoji’s old room. Yaichi admits if Mike were a woman, his reactions would be different: “This isn’t about him being a foreigner or meeting for the first time,” he thinks to himself. “It’s because my brother got married to a man. And I still have no idea … how to interact with him.”
And yet interact they must … encouraged by candid, forthright Kana who often acts as both a barometer of fairness and a bridge between divergent backgrounds. She readily, wholly accepts her burly Canadian uncle, she chides and pushes her father to be more welcoming, she’s quick to call out “weird” at the inequities in the laws that differ between countries, she even proudly shares her new relative with her friends despite judgmental reactions from myopic parents.
And so the trio’s lives readjust and grow … together.
This translated first volume (exceptionally well-rendered by Anne Ishii who is clearly fluent not just with languages, but also context and cultures) includes half of the original four-part series by Gengoroh Tagame, one of Japan’s few openly gay manga creators, which concluded in Japan in May 2017. The manga proved so popular that a three-part live-action film adaptation is scheduled to debut next March 2018. Hopefully both the next translated volume and English-subtitled-film are headed Stateside sooner than later.
An anti-homophobic, non-xenophobic family saga across cultures and generations? Yep, it’s a rare gift. Read it. Love it. Share it.
Readers: Young Adult, Adult
Published 2014 (Japan), 2017 (United States)