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The Night Parade: A Speculative Memoir


The Night Parade: A Speculative Memoir

The Night Parade, a procession of supernatural figures of Japanese lore and mythology, has been the subject of visual art and storytelling for centuries. The yōkai --- characters like Oni Baba, Amabie, Baku and others --- exist in the liminal spaces between the sacred and the mundane, the living and the dead, order and chaos. They point both toward and away from the complexities of the human condition.

Likewise, Jami Nakamura Lin’s THE NIGHT PARADE is a “speculative memoir” that explores humanity at the limits and intersections of health, memory, legacy, family and meaning. In it, she confronts her own mental health issues and her father’s death using cultural symbols and images from her Japanese Taiwanese Okinawan heritage.

"Courageous, inventive and lushly written in a distinctive and lyrical voice, THE NIGHT PARADE is an extraordinary and beautiful examination of life and death, self and parent, history and hope."

Nakamura Lin suffered with undiagnosed bipolar disorder for years. Even with the diagnosis, having been previously treated for anxiety and clinical depression, living with mental health issues presented daily challenges. As she grows up and the diagnoses and treatment get dialed in, she channels her energy into her education, writing and then building a family with her husband. All of this is occasionally interrupted by setbacks and losses. She records these in THE NIGHT PARADE with creativity and insight, drawing on the tales of the yōkai as well as kishōtenketsu narrative structure to try to make sense of it all.

Ryūjin is the Dragon King deity who controls the wind and rain and lives at the bottom of the seas that Nakamura Lin’s families crossed when coming to the U.S. The Yūrei are spirits unable to move into the realm of the afterlife. The myths and legends of these figures and many others, as well as an exploration of time --- according to Chinese zodiacs and Japanese divisions of hours --- are the bones of this memoir onto which the flesh of Nakamura Lin’s own life story are placed. The blood of the story, what courses through the narrative veins, is the life and death of her father, Charlie.

Nakamura Lin’s family was close; she, her parents and her two sisters were a caring, dynamic and loving unit. Charlie’s cancer diagnosis was difficult, but watching him in pain was devastating. And her grief at the time of his death that lingers throughout the composition of this memoir is powerful and palpable. In life, Charlie was smart, funny, affectionate and the beating heart of the family. The father-daughter relationship was both universal and singular, always intense in its feelings. In death, he is an important connection to distant homelands, ancestors and identity. He also is a connection to the promise of the future, sharing a name with his granddaughter.

With fantastic illustrations by Nakamura Lin’s sister, Cori, which add colorful section breaks, THE NIGHT PARADE marches and meanders through her emotional landscape, led by demons, deities, monsters, tricksters, ancestors and ghosts. She seems poised to end her book several times. Yet she keeps writing, perhaps unwilling to complete a project that, at its core, is about her late father. “So maybe this isn’t a story about ghosts,” she writes, “but a story about telling a story about ghosts. About how to remember while moving forward… The stories stay alive only as long as we keep telling them.”

Courageous, inventive and lushly written in a distinctive and lyrical voice, THE NIGHT PARADE is an extraordinary and beautiful examination of life and death, self and parent, history and hope.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on November 17, 2023

The Night Parade: A Speculative Memoir
by Jami Nakamura Lin

  • Publication Date: November 7, 2023
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books
  • ISBN-10: 0063213230
  • ISBN-13: 9780063213234