A Room Where the Star-Spangled Banner Cannot Be Heard opens up a new frontier in contemporary Japanese exophonic literature for readers in the West. It demystifies the linkage, dear to the Japanese, of a nation to its language. Levy Hideo's moving exploration of the multilingual, transcultural experiences of the young Ben tells the timeless tale of a boy coming of age in the context of a globalizing world, in which boundaries of language, nationality, and home are blurred. (Faye Yuan Kleeman, University of Colorado, Boulder)
An engaging coming-of-age novel that resonates with Nobel Prize winner Oe Kenzaburo's A Personal Matter in its exploration of the complexities of sexual identity and the longing for cultural hybridity. Christopher D. Scott's conscientious translation evokes the grittiness of his young protagonist's quest yet also the compassion and tenderness of Levy Hideo's novel. (Ann Sherif, author of Japan's Cold War: Media, Literature, and the Law)
Discovering this book is like meeting a fascinating person. Never before and never since have I encountered such a magical book. As a freshly peeled fruit, the language's flavor is raw and alive: ripe with intellect and replete with seeds. Seventeen-year-old Ben Isaac escapes from the confines of the American consulate in Yokohama where his father works and slips into the urban jungle of civilization called Tokyo. The characters written on the signs around himsome readable, some notshine with a mysterious appeal for Ben, luring him into the city. The deeper he goes, the narrower the rooms and alleyways become, in inverse proportion to the world of the protagonist's memories, which come alive and spread outward to China, America, and the past his parents' generation lived through. Full of intense longing and pointed social critique, this is a tale that crosses many borders. (Tawada Yoko, author of The Naked Eye)
though this was Levy's first novel, he already had a firm grasp of the novelist's art (David Cozy Japan Times)
About the Author
Christopher D. Scott was born in the United States but attended high school in Japan. He received his B.A. from Princeton University and his Ph.D. from Stanford University.