Hiromi Goto is the award-winning author of many books for youth and adults. Her adult novel, Chorus of Mushrooms (1994) was the recipient of the regional Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book as well as co-winner of the Canada-Japan Book Award. Her second adult novel, The Kappa Child, was awarded the James Tiptree Jr. Award. Hopeful Monsters was her first collection of short stories and in 2009, she co-wrote, with David Bateman, her first book of poetry, Wait Until Late Afternoon. More recently her YA novel, Half World, was winner of the 2010 Sunburst Award and the Carl Brandon Parallax Award and was longlisted for the IMPAC-Dublin Literary Award. Her latest YA publication is Darkest Light. Hiromi is also a mentro at Simon Fraser University's The Writer's Studio, an editor, and monther of two grown children. She is at work on graphic novels and short stories.
In honour of its 20th anniversary, NeWest Press released a special edition of her seminal Chorus of Mushrooms in Spring 2014.
Ahhhhh this unrelenting, dust-driven, crack your fingers dry wind has withered my wits, I'm certain. Endless as thought as breath--ha! Not much breath left in this set of bellows, but this wind. Just blows and blows and blows. Soon be blowing dust over my mummy carcass and beetles won't find the tiniest bit of soft flesh to gnaw on, serves them right. Dust in my joints dry as rust and I creak. Well worn, I am. Well worked. Can't stoop to sweep up the dust swirling in the corners of the rooms. Dust swells and eddies, motes linger to parch my nose, my mouth. Don't bother dusting, I say. It'll come back, surely. Let the piles of dust grow and mound and I'll plant daikon and eggplant seeds. Let something grow from this daily curse. But no. Keiko just looks at me from the corners of her eyes. I know. I know. Never mind. No matter. Just let Obachan sit in her chair in the hall so she can see who comes and goes. My back to the staircase, and I can see who comes through the front door. People have to pass me to get inside this house. Don't try to sneak by, I might stick out my foot. If I look straight ahead I can watch what goes on in half the living room. Turn my head to the right and I see all from the kitchen to the laundry room to the bathroom door. If I tip my head upward, I can see anyone who tries to creak down the stairs. No one moves in this house without meeting my eyes. Hearing my voice. Take no notice, I say. I'll try not to stare. I'll nod and smile. Welcome! Welcome! Into this pit of dust. This bowl of heat. Ohairi kudasai! Dozo ohairi kudasai. Talk loudly and e-n-u-n-c-i-a-t-e. I might be stupid as well as deaf. How can they think a body can live in this country for twenty years and not learn the language? But let them think this. Let them think what they will, for they will. Solly, Obachan no speeku Eeenglishu. Maybe I'm the fool, but stubborn I am and will remain. Keiko glances at me these days. More often than before with that curl of sour tofu curds lingering in her mouth. I'm not blind. I've heard the talk. "I think we should start looking for a h-o-m-e. " As if I can't spell. Eighty-five years old and cast from my home. Ahhh, at least the dust here is familiar. Every grain, every mote as familiar as the smell of my body. No time now to learn new dust in a new home. Let me just sit here. Let me sit here in the hall by the door. There are no windows here to torment me. I can only hear the muffled roar of the wind through the insulated walls and I can drown out the incessant swirl of dust, of chaff, with words. Little songs. And hum.
I mutter and mutter and no one to listen. I speak my words in Japanese and my daughter will not hear them. The words that come from our ears, our mouths, they collide in the space between us.
"Obachan, please! I wish you would stop that. Is it too much to ask for some peace and quiet? You do this on purpose, don't you? Don't you! I just want some peace. Just stop! Please, just stop. "
"Gomennasai. Waruine, Obachan wa. Solly. Solly. "
Ha! Keiko, there is method in my madness. I could stand on my head and quote Shakespeare until I had a nosebleed, but to no avail, no one hears my language. So I sit and say the words and will, until the wind or I shall die. Someone, something must stand against this wind and I will. I am.
Praise for Chorus of Mushrooms
"Hiromi Goto expertly layers the experiences of a Japanese immigrant woman, her emotionally estranged daughter and her beloved granddaughter into a complex fabric and compelling story. "
~ Ottawa Citizen
"Such a love for words is evident in Chorus of Mushrooms, which contains passages of breathtaking beauty. "
~ The Globe and Mail
"Hiromi Goto, a Japanese-Canadian writer, has written a masterpiece of our times . .. The readability of the text is attributable to the author's craftsmanship, and one feels like reading it over and over again. "
~ The Herald (Harare, Zimbabwe)
"Not only is Goto's language precise and evocative, she has crafted a complex and poetic text that weaves realities and mysteries into a subtle pattern. "
~ Edmonton Journal
"[a]n undeniably important novel. "
~ Jenny Heijun Wills, The Winnipeg Review
"Through these three women, we see how culture trickles away as one adapts to a different culture and/or lifestyle. And yet, Hiromi Goto asserts that culture never truly disappears. It is always there, lurking beneath our nails. "
~ The Scientific Detective blog