Through the Arc of the Rain Forest

A Novel by Karen Tei Yamashita

“Bizarre and baroque, funny and sad. Yamashita’s novel may say more about saving the rain forest than its nonfiction counterparts do.” —Utne Reader

July 1990
5.5 x 8.5 | 192 pages
Paperback Original

ISBN: 978-0-918273-82-6.



This freewheeling black comedy features a bizarre cast of characters, including a Japanese man with a ball floating six inches in front of his head, an American CEO with three arms, and a Brazilian peasant who discovers the art of healing by tickling one’s earlobe with a feather. By the end of this hilarious tale, they have risen to the heights of wealth and fame, before arriving at disasters—both personal and ecological—that destroy the rain forest and all the birds of Brazil.

Yamashita writes what has been called “magic realism.” Yet this novel is more real than magic, a reality bound up in cultural confusion, political insanity, and the rape of the earth, a reality which she portrays with dark humor and bitter cynicism.

“I have heard Brazilian children say that whatever passes through the arc of a rainbow becomes its opposite. But what is the opposite of a bird, or for that matter, a human being? And what then happens in the great rain forest, where, in its season, the rain never ceases and the rainbows are myriad?” —Karen Tei Yamashita


1992 Janet Heidinger Kafka Award for Fiction Winner

1992 American Book Award Winner


“Fluid and poetic as well as terrifying.” —New York Times Book Review

“Bizarre and baroque, funny and sad. Yamashita’s novel may say more about saving the rain forest than its nonfiction counterparts do.” —Utne Reader

“Dazzling . . . a seamless mixture of magic realism, satire and futuristic fiction.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“An imaginative tour de force.” —Capital Times

“Impressive . . . a flight of fancy through a dreamlike Brazil.” —Village Voice

“Surreal and misty, sweeping from one high-voltage scene to another.” —LA Weekly

“Amuses and frightens at the same time.” —Newsday

“Parodies misguided development the way Catch-22 did senseless wars . . . mak[ing] us laugh and cry.” —Sierra

“An ecological fantasy that skewers giant corporations, religion, fads, yuppies and just about every kind of greed. It may be the world’s first multicultural condemnation of capitalism.” —Pioneer Press

“An explosive satire about mortality and catastrophe.” —Asian Week

“Smooth and seamless.” —A Magazine

“An exuberant black comedy.” —Daily Yomiuri

“The American equivalent of Joseph Conrad’s Congo in The Heart of Darkness.” — Rafu Shimpo

“Yamashita has drawn upon her considerable inventive powers to deliver a good read.” —Amerasia Journal

“Thoroughly entertaining.” —Stanford Daily

“Incisive and funny, this book yanks our chains and makes us see the absurdity that rules our world.” —Booklist (starred review)

“Expansive and ambitious . . . incredible and complicated.” —Library Journal

“Yamashita’s biting satire is a powerful test of our senses, our sensitivities and sensibilities. I haven’t been as enthralled since having read Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five.” —Special Libraries Association

“This satiric morality play about the destruction of the Amazon rain forest unfolds with a diversity and fecundity equal to its setting. . . . Yamashita seems to have thrown into the pot everything she knows and most that she can imagine—all to good effect.” —Publishers Weekly

“[T]he woes and ills of contemporary society are acutely described here; but Yamashita’s affection for the quirkiness of human nature, as well as her sympathy for her characters’ plights, makes this a novel, not a polemic. A fine debut.” —Kirkus

Through the Arc of the Rain Forest attacks environmental devastation through the logic of satire and the sensibilities of the poetic mind. Yamashita plays out today’s soap opera of the futility of man’s faith in technology on the stage where it is currently most brutal, stupid and immoral: Brazilian Amazonia.” —Charles L. Hogue, Curator, National History Museum of Los Angeles