Tag Archives: Baye McNeil

Book Review – Hi! My Name is Loco and I am a Racist

himynameislocoHi! My Name is Loco and I am a Racist is  part memoir, part social commentary written by fellow Japan resident Baye McNeil.  He talks about his experiences ranging from his childhood in New York, his time in the Army, and teaching English in Japan.  But throughout this book, there is one common theme: racism.

He starts the book off with something most foreigners in Japan experience, the empty seat on a train.  It’s quite obvious that the reason is that he’s a black man in the homogeneous Japanese culture.  He returns to the empty seat several times throughout the book, sometimes as an enemy, sometimes as a friend.  He talks about his experience with racism not only in Japan, but also growing up and living in pre-911 New York.  But it’s not all about racism against him, it’s more about how he and everyone else in the world has some degree of racism within them.  Everyone judges others in some way based on their race.  I understand what he’s talking about, although his experiences are far more difficult than I’ve experienced.

It all sounds very serious, but Baye uses a lot of humour in his writing.  There are several conversations with a Japanese person throughout the book, many times humourous, but also perplexing. It shows how many people in Japan have such little experience with cultures outside Japan, they don’t understand a foreigner’s point of view.

I found his childhood experience growing up in New York to be fascinating.  It’s totally outside of my own experiences that I found it engrossing.  I learned a lot about life in 1980s New York City, at least his life.  His writing made it vivid.  I could picture everything he described, I felt like I was with him.  I could sense his feelings during his childhood, his time in the Army, his experiences dating with someone of a different race, and most of all, Aiko.  It was an emotional roller coaster.

The writing style is pretty conversational, and he sometimes rambled on quite a bit.  But it was natural sounding and very candid.  I felt like he was opening himself up to anyone who reads this.  You not only learn about him, but I think you also learn a bit about yourself while reading.  It forces you to think about whether you are racist, even a tiny little bit.

I would recommend this to a variety of people, those who live in Japan, those who are interested in racial relations, and those who enjoy autobiographies.  It’s a great read, and a great debut book.  Highly recommended.  I’d give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

10 Questions with Baye McNeil

Welcome to my new regular series, 10 Questions.  It’s a series of brief 10 question interviews with authors I may or may not have read.  In this first installment, I’m honoured to have a fellow resident of Japan answer my questions.

Baye McNeil, known for his blog, Loco in Yokohama, his first book, Hi! My Name is Loco and I am a Racist, and his new upcoming book, Loco in Yokohama, lives not so far from me, and has a lot to say about his experience being a foreigner in Japan.  I recommend subscribing to him on Twitter, Facebook, Google +, and Pinterest. So, without further ado (I know, this is cliche), here’s the interview.

1. What’s your favourite colour?

Blue

2. What’s your favourite food? Do you like Marmite?

Lasagna. No, can’t say I do.

3. Which country would you most like to visit?

Tanzania

4. What genres do you like to read?

Biography, autobiography, sci-fi

5. If you were going to write a book outside your genre(s), which genre would you choose?

Sci-fi

6. Describe your writing environment, including room, desk, sounds, etc.

I generally write in a tiny cubicle in an Internet cafe.

7. If you could have dinner with any character (person if non-fiction) from any book, who would it be?

Grand Admiral Thrawn from the Heir to the Empire Star Wars books by Timothy Zahn…or maybe Hermione Granger from the Potter books.

8.  Do you write from experience or expert knowledge?

Both.

9. Do you ever read self-published books?

Yes.

10. I’m interested in fantasy, science fiction, history, and classics. Which author’s books would you recommend to me?

Anything by Timothy Zahn and you can’t lose.

Thank you, Baye!  I’d like to add a little here.  I do have Timothy Zahn’s first Star Wars book listed as ‘to buy’ on Goodreads, so I am quite interested. And Hermione was always my favourite from Harry Potter.  Also, I have finished reading Hi! My Name is Loco and I am a Racist, and a review will be coming soon.

I will have another interview next week, this time an author who likes dark fantasy and horror.

Reading Indie Books

People question why anyone would want to read an indie book, also known as self-publishing.  With the new age of e-publishing and Amazon making it extremely easy for anyone to publish a book, completely bypassing the traditional publisher, it makes people wonder if the quality is even good.  I would say that they’re right to question the quality.  I often do, too. However, I want to support indie authors.  There are some surprisingly good books that usually go completely unnoticed.

I have already reviewed an indie book on here, and am currently reading two others. The ones that I’m reading are completely different.  One is in print, the other is an ebook.

The print book I’m reading is Hi! My Name is Loco and I am a Racist. It’s written by Baye McNeil, also known as Loco in the world of Japan blogs. I’ve been reading his blog for quite some time, and so I bought an autographed hard copy of his book earlier this year.  I’m reading it slower than I should.  I read it at home, where my daughter often doesn’t let me read anything.  However, what I’ve read so far is very good.  Baye is a very talented writer and author. One of these days, I think I’ll have to make it to a tweet-up that he’s attending.

The other book I’m reading is Voidhawk by Jason Halstead.  I’m reading it on my iPhone with the Kindle app.  This book is an interested one.  It has a unique premise, high fantasy involving elves, dwarves, mages, battles on wooden ships, pirates and more, but all of it is in space.  It’s not high tech.  In fact, it seems completely magical.  This is actually the first indie novel I’ve read, and I’m enjoying it so far.  It’s got a sense of humour to it, so I can’t completely take it seriously.  There are editing issues, such as typos and formatting problems, but it doesn’t detract from my reading experience.  It’s not an amazing book, but it is a fun read so far.  Also, this book is available for free!  You have nothing to lose by trying it.  You may like it. Unfortunately, I’ve been taking my time with this book.  I’ve been reading paper books during my free time on the train and my lunch break at work, while Voidhawk has been what I read when I have to stand on the train.  Bad excuse, but I hope to devote more time to it. When I finish it, I’ll be writing a review.

I have downloaded many other books to my phone, though I haven’t read them yet.  I will review all of them as I finish them.  It’ll be interesting to see how good or bad some of these books are, but I want to give them all a try.

On a somewhat related topic, ebooks are a great way to read classics for free.  As they are no longer copyrighted and in the public domain, they are available for free in ebook format.  Many you can even read on your computer.  But as far as Shakespeare is concerned, I’d prefer to have a paper copy with good explanatory notes.  I’m not so sure if electronic forms of Shakespearean plays have that.

Are you reading indie books?  Please leave a comment and tell me why you do or don’t read indie books.

Book Review – 2:46: Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake

2:46: Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake

Author: Various

Genre: Nonfiction History, Essays

Published 2011

Review copy: Free eBook from Amazon

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Goodreads Description

In just over a week, a group of unpaid professional and citizen journalists who met on Twitter created a book to raise money for Japanese Red Cross earthquake and tsunami relief efforts. In addition to essays, artwork and photographs submitted by people around the world, including people who endured the disaster and journalists who covered it, 2:46: Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake contains a piece by Yoko Ono, and work created specifically for the book by authors William Gibson, Barry Eisler and Jake Adelstein.

“The primary goal,” says the book’s editor, a British resident of Japan, “is to record the moment, and in doing so raise money for the Japanese Red Cross Society to help the thousands of homeless, hungry and cold survivors of the earthquake and tsunami. The biggest frustration for many of us was being unable to help these victims. I don’t have any medical skills, and I’m not a helicopter pilot, but I can edit. A few tweets pulled together nearly everything – all the participants, all the expertise – and in just over a week we had created a book including stories from an 80-year-old grandfather in Sendai, a couple in Canada waiting to hear if their relatives were okay, and a Japanese family who left their home, telling their young son they might never be able to return.”

If you’d like to make a donation to aid the victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, please visit the Japanese Red Cross Society website, where you can donate via Paypal or bank transfer (watch out for the fees, though!) or the American Red Cross Society, which accepts donations directed to its Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami fund (but only accepts donations made with U.S.-issued credit cards).

And of course, if you like the book, please tell your friends, and tell them to give generously as well! Thank you! Japan really does appreciate your help!

Review

2:46: Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake is kind of special to me.  On March 11, 2011, I went through what many of the people who contributed to this book went through.  I live in Japan, and on that day, so many things changed when the magnitude 9.0 megathrust earthquake hit the Tohoku region of Japan, off the coast of Miyagi Prefecture.  The devastating tsunami came along afterwards, and then a nuclear meltdown at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima made things even worse.  What I read in this book is very similar to my own experiences, and it brought back many memories.

The editor of 2:46, Our Man In Abiko, put together a collection of personal accounts by many social media users and bloggers, as well as some famous people, in just over a week.  That is quite the feat.  This book was created to raise money for charity to help relieve the situation in the disaster-stricken Tohoku region.  Some contributors include William Gibson, Yoko Ono, Baye McNeil, Jake Adelstein, and many others.  I had an opportunity to participate, but didn’t really think about it at that moment.

So, how is the book?  Don’t expect it to be well written by every contributor.  These are average people who are amateur writers at best, though there are a few professionals who write extremely well.  The experiences are wide and varied, from people living near the disaster area to those who are living overseas.  But they all have a connection to Japan, most having lived there.  Some contributions conveyed emotions quite well.  I found that I could relate to most of the pieces, and could clearly picture what was going on.  I could feel the motion of the earthquake as I read it.  I could see how people reacted in my mind.  I lived it all over again several times through this book.

Don’t expect amazing narrative or prose when reading this, but please read it to see what it was like to experience a 9.0 magnitude megathrust earthquake and the resulting tsunami and nuclear disaster. Highly recommended!

4 out of 5 stars.