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While I've read some of N.K. Jemisin's fiction and blogging, I came to WisCon with no prior familiarity with the other guest of honor, lyrical author Hiromi Goto. My first introduction to her work was thus when I saw and heard her performing it at the reception and reading the evening before the con truly began.

I'm not for anything going to suggest that you never pick up another book unless you first have a chance to witness the author personally performing it, but I will say: it would be hard to beat that first impression, as introductions go.

I say performed and I mean performed. I have a hard enough time reading my work in public, but Hiromi Goto embodies hers. Later in her guest of honor speech, she spoke of animating a word with a living spirit. The two readings of hers that I attended were vivid illustrations of this belief in practice.

At the reception, she read from her first novel, Chorus of Mushrooms. It's a prose work, but with something like the cadence and verve of the best slam poetry. The words she read were twenty years old, but they might have come to her off the top of her head. Or the bottom of her heart.

The selection she favored us with dealt in part with the subject of microaggressions while shopping for vegetables in a Safeway. I think it might have been instructive for some people to hear her read from this decades-old work, and when I say that, I'm thinking of the sort of people who think "microaggressions" is a made-up word (unlike all the other ones harvested from the word mines), and the people who believe that before the internet social platform of the moment Nobody Had Time To Care About This Stuff When There Is Real Racism And People With Actual Problems In The World.

And when I say this, I don't simply mean in a "See? See? Here's an example that counters your supposition about things." way.

It's instructive to watch this woman stand up, open a book, and then act out the pent-up, long simmering frustration of dealing with a kindly, interested fellow shopper who finds such surprise-wonder-joy in the exoticness of witnessing someone outside her experience shopping for produce.

It's more instructive to realize that beneath this act of frustration, there is joy... that dealing with the negativity created by such encounters is not the same thing as dwelling on it. That talking about these things, working through them, acting them out... it can be a release. It can be a relief.

Rather than trying to sum up her guest of honor speech, I'll link you to her own words on her own site. If you weren't there and haven't seen it, it's every bit as worth your time and attention as Nora Jemisin's. I believe it will stand as one of the most pivotal works on the subject of diversity in creativity and representation in stories.

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