People Who Talk to Stuffed Animals Are Nice: Stories (Hardcover)
“A captivating exploration of gender dynamics, set against a background of the trying and confusing time of adolescence, when identity is in flux and everything in life is unstable and magical.” —Lydia Conklin, author of Rainbow Rainbow
A fresh, thoughtful, and always surprising short story collection from a rising young star in the world of Japanese literature.
Composed of the title novella and three short stories, People Who Talk to Stuffed Animals Are Nice sensitively explores gender, friendship, romance, love, human interaction and its absence, and how a misogynistic society limits women and men.
In the title story, Nanamori and Mugito, two university students appalled by society’s gendered roles, rebel. Refusing to interact with other people they use stuffed toys for emotional support. Unlike Nanamori and Mugito, their fellow plushie society member Shiraki does not talk to plushies. Pragmatic, she accepts the status quo that boys sometimes make nasty jokes; she believes their behavior resembles the real world.
In “Realizing Fun Things Through Water,” a young woman named Hatsuoka must contend with a mother-in-law who swears by cancer-preventing “hyper-organization” water, and a sister who writes fake news for a living. “Bath Towel Visuals” illuminates the mental cost of not just laughing along at mean humor, while “Hello, Thank You I’m Okay” follows a family’s response when their shut-in son announces he wants to throw himself a birthday party.
Written in brisk and gentle prose, Ao Omae’s stories capture the subtleties and complexities of his characters’ inner world, individuals struggling to conform in an inflexible society little tolerant of difference. These stories, sometimes comical, sometimes bittersweet, and always thought-provoking, speak to the pain and desires of all who embrace nuance, repudiate traditional sex roles, and long for a gentler and more tolerant world.
About the Author
Born 1992 in Hyogo Prefecture, Ao Omae is a rising star of gender-conscious literature in Japan. He is the author of the novels People Who Talk to Stuffed Animals Are Nice and Only the Funny Stuff, and a collection of flash fiction A Room for a Crocodile, My Sister, and Me. Ao lives in Tokyo.
“The author excels in using simple but surprising scenarios to capture a range of emotions, especially anxiety, fear, ennui, malaise, disillusionment, and alienation. While the stories examine serious and often heartbreaking aspects of daily living, Omae injects them with just enough humor and tenderness to provoke thought and inspire curiosity rather than despair. ...[A] nuanced and moving explorations of the intricacies of interpersonal relationships.”
— Kirkus Reviews
"People Who Talk to Stuffed Animals are Nice is a captivating exploration of gender dynamics, set against a background of the trying and confusing time of adolescence, when identity is in flux and everything in life is unstable and magical. This book lets you see the world through Omae’s idiosyncratic and charming eyes." — Lydia Conklin, author of RAINBOW RAINBOW
“This collection highlights the need for more stories written by young Japanese millennial and Generation Z writers. Omae’s characters should prove to be an important contribution to literature—and Japan’s evolving understanding of the complexity of sexuality and human relationships.” — Japan Times