The last of the three books in my autumn reading series is Hi! My name is Loco and I am a Racist. It’s hard to describe this book – it’s a real one-off. Despite the provocative title I would classify it as an autobiography, by a black man who wants to reach out to other people sincerely and directly and demands that others respond in kind.
I say ‘black man’ deliberately because being black is what has formed Loco’s consciousness of himself and his relationship to the world. So, while he is funny and truthful about his sometimes explosive encounters in Japan’s homogenous society where even today a lot of people have never even met a foreigner, I wouldn’t call this a book about Japan. The strongest writing and the most interesting material are in the chapters about his life growing up in Brooklyn at the time of Black Power and in the army and after, before he came to Japan. That’s where his unique voice really comes into its own.
Hi! My name is Loco and I am a Racist has a five star rating on Amazon from six reviews. ‘Angry and thoughtful, funny and sad (actually moved me to tears few times). Brilliant.’ says one reviewer. And another continues the theme: ‘There were times when its content gave me an odd feeling in the pit of my stomach, others where I was almost moved to tears.’ So you can see, it’s a powerful book.
Loco is from Brooklyn, where he graduated from Long Island University with a degree in English and Communications, and has been living in Yokohama for seven years. He blogs about it on Loco in Yokohama where, as he says, he tells it like it is about life in Japan as a foreigner, a New Yorker and a black man. He does it in direct, colourful and sometimes very explicit language (‘you should watch your ears cuz sometimes I don’t watch my mouth’) and with total honesty.
It’s worth taking a look at his photography website as well where you’ll discover his gentler side – and his interest in stations and trains. Here’s an example of his work – Jiyugaoka station platform A: