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.

None of my novels are published, but you can read short pitches and excerpts for each one below. Help me gauge prepublication interest by sending me a message about whether you would be interested in reading more--or not.

Thanks,
George Tanabe gtanabe@hawaii.edu


Mara's Attack on the Buddha

Mara's Attack on the Buddha

Mara's Advocate

      Mara is the devil in Buddhism. While he is depicted as an external demon trying to disrupt the Buddha's inner peace, he really is a personification of the Buddha's own temptations and desires. Just as the Buddha resides in every person, so does Mara, and they battle each other as discipline and desire in each person.
As a medieval monk commited to living a pure life in the Naido order, Myozen battles Mara daily. Against Mara's onslaughts, Myozen defends himself with the shield of ritual meditation and its power to transport him into realms of greater wonder. But in the real world, he stumbles when he kills a warrior, and transgresses further by falling in love with Genshi, a free spirited intinerant nun. Mara is victorious, until Myozen uses the Buddha's secret to to trick his inner demon.
But does Myozen succeed? Does he manage to restore his purity, or is he deluding himself with a cheap self-justification?
In 1970, the authorities of the Naido order consider Myozen for the honor of being Japan's first Buddhist saint. Following Catholic sainthood procedures, they ask Professor Masanori Shimada, a Naido priest teaching at Columbia University, to head the sainthood committee, and to find a devil's advocate. Shimada selects his graduate student, Ben Schroeder, who is writing his dissertaton on Myozen's life, to serve as Mara's Advocate charged with finding any fault disqualifying Myozen from sainthood. As they argue against each other, Shimada defends not only Myozen's transgressions but his own sins by invoking the secret of the Buddha, and Myozen is declared a saint.
The novel is rich in details about life in medieval and modern Buddhist monasteries in Japan, and intertwines the ideals of tranquility with the realities of passion. For the opening passages of the novel, click on the link below, and let me know if you desire (let your literary Mara loose) to read more.

Excerpt


Laborers harvesting sugar cane by hand on plantation in Hawaii.

Laborers harvesting sugar cane by hand on plantation in Hawaii.

Miki's Mad

This is the sad and ludic tale of how a failed samurai cursed by bad karma sent his son in 1900 to restore the family fortune through contract labor on a sugar plantation in Hawaii. On a modern ship powered by the wonders of steam and electricity, Shuzo Taga meets Miki, a teenage prostitute who ignites his ambition with a vision for selling vice to men wearied by the virtue of hard work. Arriving in Honolulu and tangling with the boss of Chinatown brothels, Shuzo moves to the Waialua Plantation on the north shore. Quick to take advantage of opportunities and to create them where none exist, Shuzo expands into the restaurant and theater business. He and his partners thrive.
Except for Miki, who slips deeper into bizarre outbursts, but Shuzo is blissfully superficial and fails to see that Miki is mad—angry, insane, and hilariously funny—and he continues to turn her antics into profit. When she breaks into a wild dance of her own craziness, Shuzo declares it a performance of modern art, and takes bets from the audience to see if they can guess her true meaning.
Wealthy and respected, Shuzo continues to get his way and prepares to accept Hasumi, the woman being sent from Japan as his wife. Blind to Miki’s mad love for him, he also ignores her possession by a cat, a curse going back to the cat spirit of the little girl his father had killed in battle. Miki too waits for Hasumi.
Set in the tumultuous world of colonialism, technological revolution, and intercultural entanglements, Miki’s Mad is a picaresque telling of love, family, pride, and delusions arising from the collisions between perception and misperception, sanity and madness, compassion and revenge.


Third place winner of the fiction contest of the Hawaii Writers Conference

Excerpt


Internment camp at Rohwer, Arkansa for Japanese-Americans (1942)

Internment camp at Rohwer, Arkansa for Japanese-Americans (1942)

Loyalty

Loyalty is set within the egregious world of a WWII prison camp thrown up in Arkansas for Japanese nationals and Japanese American citizens incarcerated en masse on the hysterical assumption that disloyalty was genetically encoded in their ancestry. Like all accounts of the Japanese internment, Loyalty is about imprisonment, but unlike all other works, it tells of people, internees and camp administrators alike, incarcerated by personal demons as well as by barbed wire.
Fourteen-year old Isaac Arakaki, the main narrator, struggles against the self-imprisonment of his extreme shyness. Isaac finds respite in his chance relationship with Mary Yoshimura, the desired Christmas Queen of the camp, who sleeps next to him on the other side of a thin wall separating their beds in the flimsy barracks. Through a crack in the wall, they exchange notes, and Mary, publicly mannered, privately reveals her wild aspirations to Isaac.
Secretly daring and mature beyond her years, Mary yearns for more love and truth than she can find while attending Barnard College in New York City, or while working at a poultry farm in Rohwer with Isaac and her grandfather Popsie, whose comical respect for Hirohito and Hitler masks his only loyalty to his granddaughter. In the barn that she and Isaac transform into their enclave of freedom, Mary falls in love with a fellow trustee laborer, a German POW, and is accused of helping him escape. Her quest falters, and she ends it in front of a night train.
This is a tale about growing up, searching for love, seeking justice, negotiating warring allegiances, and seeing the world through the use and misuse of language. By the end of the novel, all questions of the characters are resolved, except for the puzzlement of Mary’s suicide, which is left to the reader’s imagination transported back to America’s greatest national insecurity of the past century.

Excerpt


The King of Hell 

(work in progress)