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Her Story

August 21, 1988

Q: By what possible stretch of the imagination can four letters to the New York Times plus a "write-up" in Newsweek be escalated 13 months later into a raging "furor"?

A: When a newspaper is hellbent on literally practicing yellow journalism.

In "Her Story" (by Ellen Hopkins, June 12), you treat Japanese, the sixth most widely spoken language in the world today, as if it were as arcane as Sanskrit. You quote the fallacious translation of a single phrase and a simple sentence in "Passover" as the basis for a McCarthyistic charge of anti-Semitism. All you had to do was check out the accuracy of that translation with members of the Japanese community in L.A. or your staff in Tokyo. Or you could have read, and quoted, the translation of the story itself provided to you by the author. Instead, you chose to Japan-bash.

In doing so, you displayed not only a lack of human decency but also any semblance of editorial accuracy. From the very first sentence almost everything is distortion, exaggeration, mistranslation, faulty scholarship and overstatement. You couldn't even get the simplest numbers right: For example, the story "Passover" received two literary awards, not three. My wife, Foumi, did not appear on "virtually every Japanese television talk show" but just one. Even the length of our marriage has been blown up from 28 to 35 years. The only figure you somehow low-ball is the number of points in the Star of David, reporting it as five rather than six.

The unfortunate truth of the matter is that in trying to reduce my Japanese wife to a Dragon Lady by subjecting her to an artificially hyped, controversial is-she-or-is-she-not-anti-Semitic? treatment--one completely without a plausible journalistic or legitimate literary basis--the Los Angeles Times itself is once again guilty of heinous racism.


Pacific Palisades

The intention of the author was not to engage in Japan-bashing but to give dignified treatment to the various interpretations of Foumiko Kometani's novel, "Passover," some of which have raised the issue of anti-Semitism. As to the number of prizes won, "Passover" is both the name of one novella and of the collection in which that novella is published. The collection won one prize; the novella won two. The extent of Kometani's talk-show visits and the years of Kometani and Greenfeld's marriage were checked by telephone with Greenfeld. We regret inadvertently reducing the number of points in the Star of David.-- The Editors.

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