'Gaijin' Explores The Experience Of Being An Outsider
The feeling of being an outsider is the theme explored in San Diego writer Susan Sleeper’s story titled “Gaijin.” It’s Sleeper’s first novel and it’s a coming-of-age tale that sheds light on the uncomfortable relationship between the residents of Okinawa, Japan and the American community living around the military base there.
Sleeper takes us into the mind of a woman in her early twenties who becomes intensely attracted to a Japanese student, a young man whose unexpected and unexplained departure leaves her obsessed with the idea of going to Japan. She applies for a job at a newspaper in Okinawa and, to her surprise, is hired. Finding herself in the midst of a cultural conflict between the native Okinawans and the American residents, she gradually becomes more aware of her own romanticized notions about Japan and about the young man whose allure drew her there.
Sleeper draws on her own experience of living and working in Japan to tell a story of sweet friendships that rise above cultural norms and divisions.
Sleeper credits San Diego's strong writers' community, including San Diego Writers, Ink with helping her complete the project.