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Trapped in Puberty and in a Revolution
Date of Review: 
Tiffany Lee-Youngrin
San Diego Union-Tribune

A Robe of Feathers and Other Stories
Thersa Matsuura

Counterpoint, 192 pages, $14.95

The best fairy tales are equal parts beautiful and strange. Take Rumplestiltskin, for example. Spinning straw into gold is a nice idea and all, but what's with the scary, blackmailing dwarf and all the child abandonment?

Thersa Matsuura's collection of 17 stories turns the folktale on its head and re-imagines myth in modern Japan, where fanciful creatures invade a subway car (in “Hate and Where It Breeds”) and where, in the title tale, an epic quest for beauty amid a crowded intersection leads to tragedy.

For many of her vivid stories, Matsuura borrows the language of Japanese myth. There's adzuki arai or “Bean Washer,” who sweeps away children playing near rivers.

There's the kokaki jiji, or “old man who cries like a child,” who seizes the unsuspecting in the night and threatens to crush them. But as steeped as they are in literary tradition, Matsuura also imbues her tales with a contemporary feel, making them relevant even to those among us who gave up on the idea of fairy godmothers and happily ever after long ago.

Tiffany Lee-Youngren, who also writes under her married name, Tiffany Fox, is a San Diego freelance writer.