Alan Lessik will be reading from his new Zen novel Make the Dark Night Shine, which was inspired by his Aunt Nina Uchida´s family story. Make the Dark Night Shine is a love letter from a father to the daughter he never met. Set between the two World Wars and taking place in Constantinople, Paris, Japan, New York and Clapham, the narrator is Kenzo Uchida, a gay diplomat turned Zen priest.
Not knowing if he will survive the 1940 Blitz in Clapham, Kenzo Uchida begins writing his life story, beginning two decades earlier when he and his same-sex partner Mitsu arrive in Constantinople to open the new Japanese Consulate. Kenzo meets Elisa, a feisty Ukrainian cigarette girl in a nightclub and she becomes his consort to hide his gay relationship while in Europe. The unlikely trio begin an adventure in the decadence of post-war Paris until disaster strikes.
Returning to the growing militarism in Japan, Kenzo finds an unexpected path in Zen Buddhism. Yet no teachings prepare him for the revelations to come — about his life, his loves, and the events around him. On the eve of WWII, he discovers that he has a daughter living with Elisa in New York. He leaves the monastery on a perilous mission to promote peace with a secret plan to reunite with his daughter Nina.
As one reviewer wrote, “A meticulously researched historical novel with a Zen heart, Make The Dark Night Shine tells the story of a diplomat-turned-monk torn between many countries and many identities as his world falls to war. There is much music in Lessik’s storytelling, but the hidden gem of this novel is its detailed (albeit brief) glimpse of life in a Buddhist monastery in pre-war Japan. Though peppered with many love stories — between men, friends, and family — it is, more than anything, an examination of queerness not seen often in Western literature and a love story with the shifting, wandering self. It is one man’s attempt to make peace with his choices and their far-reaching consequences. Cinematic and sad, it raises valuable questions about how a person might do good in a broken world, a lesson we all should consider.´´
The following video teaser of the book gives a flavor of the story.
Alan Lessik is a member of the Berlin Queer Writers Circle, Zen practitioner, amateur figure skater and LGBT activist. His debut novel The Troubleseeker was short-listed for the Publishing Triangle’s 2017 Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBTQ Fiction. With an interest in how novels preserve queer culture, he has been published on this and other topics by Lambda Literary, the Bay Area Reporter, and Advocate. He was an active member of the San Francisco Zen Center´s Queer Dharma team and later became a teacher at the SF LGBTQ Sangha. He is currently a member of the Black Mountain Zen Centre in Belfast. blog: alanlessik.com.
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