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Hapa Main Character Featured in Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible, by Suzanne Kamata

Bicultural Mama celebrates and supports multiculturalism, so with great interest I reviewed the young adult novel Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible, by Suzanne Kamata.

The book, available in May 2013, features Aiko Cassidy, a 14 year old Hapa teen who lives with her mother in Michigan. Hapa refers to people of mixed racial heritage with partial roots in Asian and/or Pacific Islander ancestry.

Aiko is the product of a brief romance between her American sculptor mother and Japanese indigo farmer father. Often mistaken as the adopted child of her fair-haired mother, she feels lost never having met her father.

Kamata weaves many layers into her unique and refreshing main character. In addition to Aiko’s bicultural heritage, she has cerebral palsy, dabbles in manga art, longs to discover her Japanese roots and is on the verge of womanhood. I love that the author does not gratuitously add these in, and instead respectfully develops the character.

Aiko longs to disappear lest others notice her curled hand and stuttered walk. Heralded as the disabled muse for her mother’s sculptures, Aiko resentment grows and causes strain between the two. Aiko longs for acknowledgment, but for her own art — not for her special needs. In secret she draws stories about a manga character, Gadget Girl, then leaves her printed works of art in public places. She waits for others to discover her, just like how she waits to discover herself.

Aiko’s mother is exhibiting her sculpture in Paris and invites Aiko to come along. Though Aiko would rather travel to Japan — the manga capital of the world and birth father’s location — the Paris trip provides the catalyst to explore the strained relationship between mother and daughter as well as first romance with a young Parisian waiter.

Kamata skillfully captures the angst of searching for self-identity, young love and acceptance. Readers will relate to these universal themes no matter what cultural backgrounds they come from.


Gadget Girl began as a novella published in Cicada. The story won the SCBWI Magazine Merit Award in Fiction and was included in an anthology of the best stories published in Cicada over the past ten years. To pre-order Gadget Girl, please visit Amazon.com.

Susan Kamata lives in Tokushima, Japan with her husband and bicultural twins. For more information, visit www.suzannekamata.com.

Disclosure: Bicultural Mama received a complimentary copy of Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible for the purpose of this review. All opinions expressed are solely those of Bicultural Mama.

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