Tanabe Books

Nonfiction and fiction writings about Religion, Buddhism, Japan, Hawaii, and Japanese-Americans

​George Tanabe writes nonfiction and fiction about Religion, Buddhism, Japan, Hawaii and Japanese-Americans.

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The Magical Realism of Religion

     Religious writings are filled with stories about magical events passed off as history: a queen delivers a baby who can walk and speak philosophy; a virgin gives birth to a boy who is later killed but comes back to life as a savior; a monk passes from this life into a living state of eternal meditation, dying but not really. The literature of magical realism has been around since ancient times and is among the most revered of all writings.
      I spent my professional life studying these stories, and used the tools of scholarship to produce nonfiction books about Buddhism in Japan and Hawai'i. It was easy for me to shift from studying magical realism to writing fiction, the art of creating worlds out of nothing, of giving characters life or destroying them as I please.
      You can find out more about my books and activities by clicking the buttons on the upper left. Thanks for stopping by.  


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As an academic specialist, I researched, wrote and taught about religion, especially Buddhism in Japan. From 1977 to 2006, I was on the faculty in the Department of Religion at the University of Hawai'i, and I thoroughly enjoyed the paid privilege of trying to understand the many fascinating ways people live their lives according to the magical realism of religion. I published widely, and you can check out my Bibliography page for a list of my books and articles. You can also find descriptions of my major books on the Nonfiction page.

After retiring in 2006, I was liberated from the dense writing style academics prefer, and have enjoyed writing in order to engage readers, not just to impart knowledge to them, to surprise them, make them laugh and cry and wonder. It's quite a challenge, and I am still learning the higher art of popular writing. In the nonfiction area, I write for magazines like HanaHou!, the magazine of Hawaiian Airlines that is unlike any other in-flight publication. I am also working on a manuscript with the working title of Making Belief, a narrative about Japanese religions in which I use the techniques of fiction: character, dialogue and plot. I will probably release it as an eBook. Check back later about this.

Retirement also liberated my imagination.  As a woodworker, I had looked forward to spending most of my time making furniture, but for some reason unknown to me, I started writing fiction.  I have no training in creative writing, and had not even been much of a reader of novels.  Now I read in all genres of fiction, trying to figure out what works, what doesn't and why.  My workshop has been taken over by spiders. 

Despite the difficulty of publishing fiction, I remain obsessed with writing stories, and am working on my fourth unpublished manuscript.  You can read excerpts on my Fiction page, and I shall appreciate any critical feedback you would care to give.  Thanks. 

George (J) Tanabe (Jr)
gtanabe@hawaii.edu