Circle K Cycles

Stories and essays by Karen Tei Yamashita

April 1, 2001 • 7 x 9 • 220 pages • 978-1-56689-108-0

With skill, imagination, and wit, Yamashita defines an emerging challenge of twenty-first century global society.

When second-generation Japanese Brazilians emigrate to Japan to assume the manual work its citizens no longer want, their need for cultural belonging, along with their homesickness for the food, culture, and language they left behind is exacerbated by Japan’s reverence for all things “purely Japanese.” This stunning book of hybrids merges fiction, essay, and pop culture collage to illustrate a global society that resists heritage-by-hyphenation and opens the door onto important issues of the new century; labor, nationalism, and cultural assimilation.

In the short stories, we meet Miss Hamamatsu ’96—a Euro-Asian beauty who covets the Miss Nikkei pageant crown, conwoman Marie Madalena and her ad scams and phone sex business, Zé Marias as he is embroiled in a debacle with a sinister employment agency, and other unique characters who are somehow enmeshed in a Japanese Brazilian employment scam and its unsolved, deadly outcome. Interspersed within these tales are Yamashita’s personal essays that detail the Asian American author’s travels to Japan with her Brazilian husband and family—a time spent straddling the fence between boisterous Brazilian customs and the conservative Japanese tradition.

About the Author

Karen Tei Yamashita is the author of Letters to Memory, Through the Arc of the Rain Forest, Brazil-Maru, Tropic of Orange, Circle K Cycles, I Hotel, and Anime Wong, all published by Coffee House Press. I Hotel was selected as a finalist for the National Book Award and awarded the California Book Award, the American Book Award, the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association Award, and the Association for Asian American Studies Book Award. She has been a US Artists Ford Foundation Fellow and co-holder of the University of California Presidential Chair for Feminist & Critical Race & Ethnic Studies. She is currently Professor of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz.


“Beautiful. . . . A totally fascinating and engaging representation of cultural diaspora and hybrid identities.” Giant Robot

“Marvelous. . . . The trilingual narrative, personal recollections, reflections, and stories cumulatively convey the complexities of the modern diasporic world.” Pan-Japan

“Visually arresting. . . . Circle K Cycles’s brilliant fusing of forms is perfectly suited to its subject matter.” Review of Contemporary Fiction

“Thoughtful. . . . a complex globalized twenty-first-century stew of laboring class migrations, cultural diffusions, and loosening national identities.” Multicultural Review

“At once a short story collection, memoir and scrapbook—charmingly enlivened with snapshots, advertisements, signs, random factoids and graphics . . . [Yamashita] brings it all together with humor and heart.” Publishers Weekly

“This book of hybrids opens a door onto one of the important issues of the new century and illustrates a global society that resists heritage by hyphenation.” Rafu Shimpo