Official Review: Best Evidence by Mark S. Osaki

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gen_g
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Official Review: Best Evidence by Mark S. Osaki

Post by gen_g » 23 Jun 2018, 10:39

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Best Evidence" by Mark S. Osaki.]
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3 out of 4 stars
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Mark S. Osaki’s book, Best Evidence, is a collection of 39 prose poems in a 54-page book, a short but intense read. For those who are unaware, prose poetry is basically poetry written in prose instead of verse without forgoing certain qualities of its form, like heightened imagery and high emotional intensity. Split into four sections, the first part deals with the Asian-American experience, the second and third on war, and the final section a mix of various themes.

I certainly enjoyed reading Osaki’s works. Powerfully evocative and lyrical, they draw much-needed attention to sensitive issues, like the resultant psychological trauma left on the Vietnamese people in America by the Vietnam War, as well as his experience as an Asian-American in a predominantly white America. The poems do not shy away from these delicate topics; instead, it invites the reader to look even deeper into the pool of Osaki’s raw feelings and emotions.

In addition, what I find most touching is the realistic portrayal of Asian-American stereotypes – such as Osaki's need for affirmation and validation from his parents when he decides to pursue a “soft subject” like the literary arts in “My Father Holding Squash”. This would definitely resonate with many second-generation, or even third-generation Asian-American readers, as they may experience dissonances in identity and values caused by the various differences between their cultural and historical inheritances and the Western cultures and values that they are exposed to.

Furthermore, Osaki has a beautiful way with language. He is able to utilise even the most mundane and everyday object to depict a depth of emotion that arises from the discourse on heavy topics. A great example of this would be “Chinese Camp, California”, where he creates a triple play on the word “pen” – taking it to mean the pen used to pen the poem, the penning itself, as well as likening the isolation Asian-Americans experience to being trapped in a metaphorical pen.

However, Best Evidence is not without its flaws. Personally, I am of the opinion that Osaki has a problematic tendency to portray women in a negative and inferior light. In many of his poems, such as “Double Vision”, “Ambush”, “Such a Lovely Dress", "Snow" and "Border Exchange", women are either depicted as madwomen, or personifications of negative qualities (i.e. licentiousness, capriciousness). Not only is this insulting in this day and age where many people are fighting to achieve gender equality, it is also a great step backwards in this struggle. Regardless, I do not believe that it is intentionally done – however, this does not mean that I condone such sexism. In fact, it seems like an unconscious disparaging of women – this is perhaps due to patriarchal culture, which has a relatively stronger influence in traditional Asian society. Hopefully, with more awareness, this will not be present in Osaki’s future works.

Therefore, I am rating Best Evidence 3 out of 4 stars; the negative representation of women unfortunately prevented me from giving it a full score. Nonetheless, Osaki’s mastery of language and his ability to elicit in his reader introspective thoughts/emotions is evident in his poetry. If you are looking to learn more about racial prejudice, war, and its resultant psychological aftereffects, this is definitely the book for you.

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Post by strawberrysab » 25 Jun 2018, 05:39

I was already ready to jump on this book, intrigued by prose poetry (which I had no idea was even a thing) and by the evocative imagery, but I don't need a book that shades a negative light on women, especially in present day. Your review, though, was stunning.
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Post by gen_g » 25 Jun 2018, 09:51

strawberrysab wrote:
25 Jun 2018, 05:39
I was already ready to jump on this book, intrigued by prose poetry (which I had no idea was even a thing) and by the evocative imagery, but I don't need a book that shades a negative light on women, especially in present day. Your review, though, was stunning.
Thank you for your high compliment! It is a pity indeed, but if I were to be very honest, the shade is not overwhelming. Nonetheless, thank you for taking the time to read my review, as well as to leave such a lovely comment. :D

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Post by Helen_Combe » 25 Jun 2018, 10:02

Great review as always. You’ve definitely picked up on a potential clash of cultural attitudes there.
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Post by gen_g » 25 Jun 2018, 10:04

Helen_Combe wrote:
25 Jun 2018, 10:02
Great review as always. You’ve definitely picked up on a potential clash of cultural attitudes there.
Thank you for the kind comments! Indeed, the book was definitely an eye-opener.

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Post by Amberlily » 25 Jun 2018, 10:33

This sounds like a very unique collection of poems. I love learning about the Asian lifestyle in both here in America or in their home countries. I don't think the negativity towards women would completely stop me from reading this, but knowing that would make me pay attention to the poems a bit more. Indeed it could be the result of a cultural phenomenon, or it's possible that this person just hasn't had a positive female influence in their life. It would be interesting to look through these and try to find a possible reason for it. Great review!

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Post by anwidmer » 25 Jun 2018, 10:37

Im not much for poetry, however your review piques my interest. I would definitly need it to be fast paced to hold my interest. I might just give this one a whirl!

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Post by gen_g » 25 Jun 2018, 10:46

Amberlily wrote:
25 Jun 2018, 10:33
This sounds like a very unique collection of poems. I love learning about the Asian lifestyle in both here in America or in their home countries. I don't think the negativity towards women would completely stop me from reading this, but knowing that would make me pay attention to the poems a bit more. Indeed it could be the result of a cultural phenomenon, or it's possible that this person just hasn't had a positive female influence in their life. It would be interesting to look through these and try to find a possible reason for it. Great review!
I totally agree with you; the author does not seem to be aware that his view on women seems to be problematic - however, I would have to say that these poems might not be a complete reflection of his personality (since there are only 39 of them). Otherwise, I'm glad that you enjoyed the review, and I would definitely like to hear your thoughts on plausible reasons behind his perspective. Thank you for taking the time to read my review, I appreciate your kind comments!

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Post by gen_g » 25 Jun 2018, 10:47

anwidmer wrote:
25 Jun 2018, 10:37
Im not much for poetry, however your review piques my interest. I would definitly need it to be fast paced to hold my interest. I might just give this one a whirl!
I'm glad that my review was able to pique your interest in this book! Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment! :D

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Post by anwidmer » 25 Jun 2018, 10:57

Of course! A great review elicits a well deserved response =)

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Post by JR Mercier » 25 Jun 2018, 12:20

I've never been this into a review. You wrote a fantastic review on a book that doesn't seem to be for the faint of heart. I dislike the negative few of woman but the psychological effects of war has me so intrigued. You perfectly brought out Best Evidence. (I'm clapping hands.)
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Post by my1life6 » 25 Jun 2018, 12:58

This is a fantastic review. Makes me want to read the book and better understand the culture.

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Post by AWANDO OGUTU » 25 Jun 2018, 13:43

I'm opined that the theme of war is the predominant theme. The book highlights the effects of war to the society.

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Post by Catevanne22 » 25 Jun 2018, 17:03

The Asian culture is definitely a fascinating one, and one that I know little about. I have enjoyed prose poetry in the past, and I might like this book as well. I think the representation of women in a negative light is a part of Asian culture in that time period, and as such I don't believe in turning away from reading about it. Isn't that one of the problems of our PC culture as it is? We don't seem to want to know about anything we disagree with, so I would not forego reading this book just because of the way women are portrayed. Why not look at it as an educational experience; one that we can hopefully change for the better?

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Post by Pedromac » 25 Jun 2018, 17:23

This review really got my attention..

Though ah dont really have Great interest in poetry but this was nice.. getting to know about about the asians cause there's really alot to know...

Nice review

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