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Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
Rowan Hisayo Buchanan is the author of Harmless Like You and Starling DaysShe is the winner of The Authors’ Club First Novel Award and a Betty Trask Award. Her work has been a New York Times Editors’ Choice, an NPR 2017 Great Read and shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award. She is the editor of the Go Home! anthology.

Articles Available Online


Cathy Park Hong’s ‘Minor Feelings’

Book Review

April 2020

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

Book Review

April 2020

Before beginning Minor Feelings, A Reckoning on Race and the Asian Condition, an essay collection by the poet Cathy Park Hong, I sat with...
The White Book feels as if it is being whispered: each paragraph seems to come from some deep and interior place Han Kang wrote it whilst living in Warsaw, though in the book the city is never named explicitly Instead it is only a white city, white for its snow and white for its stone ruins In an interview with Granta, Kang said that when writing this book, she imagined her prematurely dead sister had lived and visited the city ‘in my place’   Photographs are interspersed throughout In some, a woman appears, her face obscured by shadow In others, only her hands are visible She holds a child’s gown She holds a pebble-like object covered in salt The photographs are of white objects, but in contrast to the white pages, they are startlingly grey The specks and splashes of whiteness are surrounded by shadow The woman seems trapped in darkness Who is this woman supposed to represent? The narrator? The ghost of the sister? The novelist Kang? All or none of the above?  The literal answer is that they are photographs of a performance by Kang, shot by the photographer Choi Jinhyuk But within the pages, they seem to carry the spirit of characters — and the novelist herself   The text is a loose collection of thoughts, scenes, and images Few are longer than a page They are gathered into three sections — ‘I’, ‘She’, and ‘All Whiteness’ ‘I’ follows the narrator considering the colour white and describes her sister’s passing ‘She’ imagines the sister’s life Some subsections describe what the sister might have done—having an X-ray, finding a pebble, attempting to befriend a dog Others contemplate white things—seagulls, a dead butterfly, a lace curtain   Both ‘I’ and ‘She’ are pensive and slightly sorrowful At first, this similarity is disorienting: it is hard to see where one perspective ends and the other begins Slowly, the reader realises that this muddling is the point The concern of the narrator is not whether the sister would have been a vastly different person, but what it means to replace one life with another Her mother would not have

Book Review

November 2017

Han Kang’s ‘The White Book’

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

Book Review

November 2017

The White Book feels as if it is being whispered: each paragraph seems to come from some deep and...

I   The first time I had to wear a uniform I looked like a madman struggling against a straitjacket I wept so hard that my parents got scared Mother became frustrated ‘What is the matter with you?’ Father demanded ‘You look so handsome in that uniform Why don’t you enjoy it rather than cry like an infant?’   Changing into my first school uniform had made me self-conscious I touched the fabric of this second skin with a sense of disgust The white shirt, blue waistcoat, grey trousers and bow tie had stripped me of my self I had morphed externally into someone else –  one of those who work   There was but one consolation: this was temporary When I returned from school I would recover my identity But the discovery of its instability troubled me That day had marked the beginning of an almost lifelong difficulty As children we become adults through the performance of dressing up, a ritual one cannot easily forget Having adopted its disguise, can there be a self outside the uniform?     II   In the last days of 2012, the Turkish government announced their decision to remove all uniforms from the country’s public schools Politicians in Ankara seemed committed to lifting a regulation which had been planned during the first decades of the Republican era, without paying much attention to the socio-political consequences Generations of Turkish pupils have been educated in and through uniforms Educational, military and social discipline have been maintained through their imposition Many ex-students, like me, spent a significant portion of their lives learning how best to carry them The uniform was the fundamental component of the school system, embodying a broader ideological programme that championed the concept of uniformity Teachers asked us to appreciate the importance of acting in unison: they lectured us about the value of homogenisation Turkey’s founding ideologues reformed the Turkish identity on the same principle, asking the country’s multiracial, multicultural population to willingly erase their heritage Through this cultural amnesia the diverse national identity could be reconstructed as a homogenised, and therefore more governable, entity   The uniform is both a symbol and a constitutive

Contributor

June 2016

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

Contributor

June 2016

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan is the author of Harmless Like You and Starling Days. She is the winner of The Authors’ Club First Novel...

The Giving Up Game

fiction

December 2016

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

fiction

December 2016

The peculiar thing was that Astrid appeared exactly as she did on screen. She was neither taller nor shorter. Her smile had the same...
Harmless Like You

fiction

Issue No. 17

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

fiction

Issue No. 17

Interstate 95, September 2016   Celeste sat on the front seat wearing her black turtleneck sweater. She had three sweaters: black, blue, and festive....

READ NEXT

Interview

March 2013

Interview with Amit Chaudhuri

Anita Sethi

Interview

March 2013

Think of the long trip home.  Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?  Where should we...

fiction

Issue No. 12

A Samurai Watches the Sun Rise in Acapulco

Álvaro Enrigue

TR. Rahul Bery

fiction

Issue No. 12

To Miquel   I possess my death. She is in my hands and within the spirals of my inner...

feature

January 2014

Afterword: The Death of the Translator

George Szirtes

feature

January 2014

1. The translator meets himself emerging from his lover’s bedroom. So much for fidelity, he thinks. 2. Je est...

 

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