This is a memoir about adventure, resilience, survival and defying the odds!
I first heard of Karen Hill Anton on the Alliance of Independent Authors’ podcast, where she discussed her memoir, the View From Breast Pocket Mountain. It is about her life as a black woman who travelled around the world, finally settled in Japan, and has been there for over forty years. I immediately bought the book because it intrigued me. Karen began her travels in 1965 when she was 19 and went around Europe.
I admired how she transcended a tough childhood – a mentally ill and institutionalised mother, her childhood home burning down, her beloved father and brother murdered. Through all those traumas, Karen continued her life and broke many boundaries.
One of the most memorable parts of the book was when she, her white partner, whom she later married and her young daughter decided to move to Japan in the 70s to become part of a Dojo. Instead of flying or travelling by ship, they decided they would drive. It took them a year of road, water and flight, living frugally, sleeping in their car, and camping on the grounds.
Karen described her experiences of unwanted male attention in some of the middle eastern countries. How her partner would stay up all night to ensure she and her daughter were safe. Karen also described the harsh dojo existence, her loneliness, because Japanese culture is multigenerational and supports the family. She and her husband stood out as foreigners with no family support. However, she slowly made friends and began to be accepted in the society.
This would be an excellent read for those trying to understand a black female experience in Europe and other parts of the world in the 60s and 70s.
Karen went on to have three more children in Japan who grew up bilingual. Still, she and her husband decided to educate their children in the States due to the Japanese education system, which they felt did not encourage creativity. They now have grown children who have gone on to have their own families scattered around the world. At the same time, she is content with her role in Japan as a writer and then as a cultural liaison.
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