Full disclosure, Are You an Echo? The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko is a tough book. It's a beautiful story with touching moments, but it's rife with horrible moments, too, like infidelity, abuse, and, eventually, suicide. It's a book that will stick with readers forever, reminding them of the impact of words and how transformative they can be.
Are You an Echo? is a book about the life and work of Misuzu Kaneko, one of Japan's most beloved children's poets. Misuzu was known for her incredible empathy for all things, living and not. Long after her death, her poems were broadcast across Japan after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that struck northern Japan. Advertisers had withdrawn their commercials from broadcast out of respect for those who had lost their lives, and the PSA with Misuzu's poem became an instant hit, reminding Japanese of their shared humanity. During and after her death, Misuzu served as an inspiration for those around her.
Japanese illustrator and graphic artist Toshikado Hajiri created the images for Are You an Echo? from paint, and he worked hard to reach an international audience and teach them about Japanese living: “I took care with the details such as the shrines, wooden houses and aspects of a fishing village or the tatami mats, shoji (sliding paper door) and tableware inside the homes, as I wanted to convey the beauty of the Japanese scenery and lifestyle from that era to people overseas.”
This book isn't for everyone, but if you're open to it, it can bring you into a world that threatens to be forgotten. People last in our memories, and books like these--despite their dark endings--serve as a reminder of the importance words and stories carry.