Richard Wiley

Commodore Perry's Minstrel Show

Starred Review, Publishers' Weekly

In 1854, when the U.S. Navy's Commodore Perry sailed into Edo (now Tokyo) with the grand goal of opening Japan to trade, he brought major change and minor entertainment—a black-face minstrel show that amazed and perplexed its audience. In this brilliantly imagined novel, Wiley, shifting perspectives with deft ease, follows two fictional white minstrels, Ace Bledsoe and Ned Clark, as they confront Japanese society, while he subversively engages the reader in a deeply allegorical reading of cultural exchange. Ace and Ned come under the wing of interpreter Manjiro Okubo, whose powerful family is locked in an old clan rivalry. The rivals' plot to kidnap musicians sets off a train of events romantic and tragic, with touches of Keystone Kops: with tantalizing authorial discretion, lovers enjoy one another, villains flash lethal swords, beauty balances bawdy, and rivalries and enmities explode. (Readers need not have read Wiley's PEN/​Faulkner Award–winning Soldiers in Hiding, for which this novel is a way-back prequel.) This absorbing and immensely pleasurable book achieves momentum through Wiley's fluid style, the lightness with which he bears his learning, and the vitality and wit with which he brings a vanished world to life.

Novels

Dr. Ruby Okada meets Bob Stevenson, a charming man with a Scottish accent, in the elevator of her psychiatric hospital. Unaware that he is an escaping patient, she falls under his spell, and her life and his are changed forever by the time they get to the street.
Ruth Rhodes is suddenly confronted by the man who raped her four years earlier, and must come clean with both herself and her husband, while he negotiates the grief and mystery surrounding the murder of his own mother. The rapist, meanwhile, stands atop this narrative, telling his side of the story in diabolically captivating ways.
Two American minstrels visit Japan and get caught in Machiavellian machinations at the opening of the country in 1854.
American Jazz musicians drafted into the Japanese army during World War II. Pen/Faulkner Award winner.
World travelers meet and clash in Nome, Alaska at the end of the 19th Century.
The raucous tale of a mid-1960s Peace Corps Volunteer living in a Korean Village.
American school principal involves himself in Nigerian intrigue and politics.
Ivory and animals on a Kenyan farm. Out of Africa in the modern age.

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