I am terribly overdue in sharing this review of The View From Breast Pocket Mountain, Karen Hill Anton’s breathtaking memoir. And I am profoundly regretful that I wasn’t able to share with you earlier just how wonderful this book has been to read over the last couple of weeks. Saying that it’s inspiring would be an understatement.
Anton, a long-term resident of Japan, became known to many in the international community thanks to her former column at The Japan Times, “Crossing Cultures,” an honest account of personal experiences, encounters, observations and thoughts on living between different cultures and generations. After reading her memoir, I can’t quite think of anybody more qualified to talk about intercultural experiences.
The View From Breast Pocket Mountain, independently published earlier this year, begins in Anton’s hometown, New York City. In the first chapters, the author sends the reader back to her childhood, immersing them in the environment she was raised in, introducing her siblings and parents. The reader gets to meet her father early in the book — a person Anton would commonly reference; a significant figure in her life. In her late teens, Anton visits Europe for the first time, though it won’t be the last — it’s her first (of many) endeavors outside the US. From that point on, we see her growing and developing into the confident woman she is today. In these endeavors, a central component is the people she encounters; those who challenged Anton and those who helped her find her path and place in the world.
“It is also a book about home, what home means and where it could be”
While the memoir thematically falls into what Anton is best known for — bridging cultures — and her path to finally finding a home here in Japan, it is also full of other intimate themes, including family and introspective exploration. It is also a book about home, what home means and where it could be, and, above all, about love.
Non-fiction isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but this memoir reads like a travelogue. Anton’s writing is blunt but also poetic. It was quite a journey to pell a little more of her life story with every page. Every sentence was concise and purposeful, likely a remnant from her career in journalism.
As somebody who has never set foot in Europe and, quite frankly, lacks in traveling experience (hello 2020, but also because part of me kind of dislikes it), reading The View From Breast Pocket Mountain really hit in the right place. I moved to Japan to work when I was 23, but my exposure to Japanese culture started many years before. Unlike me, however, Anton, didn’t have Twitter and Reddit threads or YouTube videos. Her experience can’t begin to be compared to those of my generation, nor those of the generations that will come after. We are spoiled with information — and while this gives us many opportunities, it also limits us to the extreme. Anton came to Japan with a fresh and curious mind, like a sponge ready to absorb everything she would set her eyes on.
Frankly, we need more of that.
Win Your Copy
We have two copies of Anton’s The View From Breast Pocket Mountain to giveaway to Tokyo Weekender readers. To enter to win, send us an email at [email protected] with:
- Your name
- Postal address
- Tell us of one Japanese or Japan-based author you think deserves more love from the foreign community. Their works might even get featured in the TW Book Club‘s 2021 lineup!
The View From Breast Pocket Mountain is available on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.jp, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Google Play, Kobo.
See what Anton is up to at www.karenhillanton.com