Joyce Chapman Lebra
Home Why I Write About Books News & Events Links About Joyce Gallery Contact
Joyce Chapman Lebra

Joyce's Books

We Chose Colorado, Japanese American Voices

This book traces oral histories of Japanese immigrants who settled in Colorado, from the earliest pre-World War II arrivals and continuing to the present. The book voices their ambition, struggles, and setbacks when citizens of Japanese descent were incarcerated in concentration camps during WWII. After the war they rebuilt their lives and made significant contributions to Colorado, as to other states.

 

BUY THE BOOK!


Solo Cooking For A Sustainable Planet

Solo Cooking For a Sustainable Planet" by Boulder, Colorado author and chef Joyce Lebra is unique in that it combines cooking for one with a concern for the planet. The recipes are vegetarian and pescetarian, and are simple enough for the most reluctant cook to follow. The approach of this book is that meat-eating on the American level is unsustainable and no meat recipes will be found here. This book encourages experimentation in the kitchen, and many recipes include suggested variations.

 

BUY THE BOOK!


Cane Fires

Cane Fires is the shocking stoory of the murder of Hawaiians over land issues, based on actual murders. In this fictional version Lei Ferreira seeks to protect her Hawaiian heritage and family land against the machinations of a powerful sugar company. She is inspired by the words of activist George Helm who protests the suppression of Hawaiian culture and is thereafter lost mysteriously at sea. The sugar baron's son Mark Driscoll is caught between his father's nefarious plot to take the Ferreira land and his growing involvement with Lei. It seems that the Hawaiian Renaissance will be accompanied by bloodshed, as with the struggles of native peoples everywhere.

 

BUY THE BOOK!


The Scent of Sake

A stunning historical novel about fire, shipwreck, a philandeirng husband who frequents geishas, sabotage by competitors, and her own gender in a male-dominated society and all-male industry challenge Rie, protagonist of this saga. Rie overcomes these challenges to build the largest sake empire in the country when sake was big business. She achieves this by a combination of skillful entrepreneurial innovation and canny marital maneuvering of the Omura children, both her own and her husband's by geishas, to other brewing houses, all then tied to the main house. Watching her in action is like watching a kabuki drama. Readers will be able to smell sake brewing, to feel Rie's frustration as she faces formidable challenges and her elation as she copes with them.

A Message from Joyce... My historical novel, THE SCENT OF SAKE, is about a woman who a century and more ago builds the largest sake empire in Japan at a time when sake is the biggest business.

The protagonist, Rie, achieves this despite a philandering husband, sabotage by competitors, and her own gender in an androcentric society. She employs a combination of skillful entrepreneurial innovation and canny marital maneuvering of the Omura children, both her own and her husband's by geishas, to other brewing houses, all then connected to the Omura main house. She is the first brewer to introduce mechanized rice polishing, the first to build brick buildings, the first to sell water from a special well, one of the first to go into real estate, the first to own her own ships for shipping to Edo (Tokyo), the largest market, and the first to use steamships.

Watching Rie and her chief clerk, Kinnosuke, is almost as good as watching a kabuki drama. Readers will be able to smell the sake brewing. The time is late Tokugawa and early Meiji, the place, the sake brewing district of Kansai. In this male-dominated world of brewing merchants, Rie wields power with uncommon savoir-faire.


Review

Think of gin and one thinks of England. Think of tequila and Mexico, vodka and Russia, brandy and France. Think of sake and one thinks only of Japan.

Mentioned in the third-century Chinese manuscript "The Records of Three Kingdoms," in "The Book of Wei" and in the eighth-century Japanese chronicle "Kojiki," sake has played an important part in literature and history. Given to kamikaze pilots before suicide missions -- as an offering in Shinto ceremonies -- sake is almost mythical. After all, the god Susanoo defeated the eight-headed Orochi after the serpent became drunk on stolen sake.

Like rice before it is fermented, Joyce Lebra's "The Scent of Sake" is polished. There are as many characters as there are types of sake and the author handles them with alacrity and humor. The cast includes drunken and cheating husbands, geishas, duplicitous employees and evil rivals, and the novel portrays the complicated relationships between mothers and sons, masters and servants, geishas and customers, legitimate and illegitimate children.

Opening in Kobe in 1825, "The Scent of Sake" tells the story of Rie Omura, born into a ninth-generation sake-brewing family and a world of female repression and obligation. After the accidental death of her younger brother -- the rightful heir to the brewery estates -- Rie is pressured into an arranged marriage to a rival brewer's less-than-handsome son. Banned from the brewery itself -- a woman's presence is said to turn the sake sour -- and forbidden to deal with money, Rie spends her time looking for a wedding kimono and dreaming about a secret and forbidden love.

Joyce Lebra, unlike many historical novelists, seamlessly weaves research into her fiction; there are no clunking facts and the story is interspersed with interesting digressions on the techniques of sake making, Shinto weddings, Buddhist funerals, the wearing of kimonos, the intricacies of ikebana, the tools of calligraphy, mochi making, rice cooking, Hina Matsuri dolls and the writing of haiku.

"The Scent of Sake" also provides a view of family life within the merchant classes. The novel tells of arranged marriages, some loveless and desultory, others loving and respectful; explores the world of geishas and pleasure quarters; and explains the commercial intricacies of sake breweries, with their offshoot businesses of money-lending, ship owning and currency exchange.

Although historical in scope, the novel also chronicles how some things do not change no matter the setting, the cast, or the country -- husbands get drunk on their wedding nights, teenagers are sullen and rebellious, and behind every plot is love and/or money.

Chiefly, though, the novel is a personal biography of a woman in a changing world. Rie witnesses the shift from tradition to modernization -- to a world in which steam and brick have supplanted wood and paper, and families no longer take grandmothers to die alone on a mountainside because of lack of room or food in the family home.

Thankfully, there is only one appearance of a samurai and his presence focuses the narrative on the changing stratification of Tokugawa society, the collapse of the shogunate and the subsequent restoration of the emperor.

Filled with the heady bouquet of Japanese history, from late Edo Period to the landing of the Black Ships, this is a novel about the changing culture of Japan, and how women started to take responsibility for their literacy, health and finances and gain for themselves a semblance of freedom.
--Steve Finbow, The Japan Times

 

Spanish cover


The Indian National Army and Japan; a reprint of Jungle Alliance; Japan and the Indian National Army

The Indian National Army and Japan is a reprint of Jungle Alliance; Japan and the Indian National Army, published in 1971 by the Asia/Pacific Press in Singapore. The study traces the origins of the Indian National Army in the imagination of Iwaichi Fujiwara, a young Japanese intelligence officer, and the relationship between the Imperial Japanese Army and the Indian National Army as it evolved under the leadership of Bengali revolutionary Subhas Chandra Bose. This study is unique of those in English in its use of Japanese archival sources for analysis of the relationship between Japanese policy formulation and the Indian independence movement in its military phase.

"The Indian National Army and Japan tells the fascinating story of India's anti-colonial struggle led by the legendary freedom fighter Subhas Chandra Bose. The author gives a fine analysis of the complex relationship between Japan and the Provisional Government of Free India in exile formed by Bose during the Second World War."
--Krishna Bose, Chairperson, Netaji Research Bureau, Calcuttam India

"Joyce Lebra's The Indian National Army and Japan has long been the standard history of the relationship between the Japanese and National Armies against which all others have been measured. It is still the best on the subject, and the reappearance of this essential resource after so many years will surely be applauded by scholars of the war in South and Southeast Asia."
--Al Lathrop, Professor and Curator, University of Minnesota

"Professor Lebra's book Jungle Alliance: Japan and the Indian National Army, published more than thirty years ago, remains one of the finest studies of Asia in the Second World War. In it, she skillfully combined political, diplomatic and military history in a transnational frame."
--Sugata Bose, Gardiner Professor of History, Harvard University

"Dr. Lebra has produced a very fine book. Well written, with a generally good balance between the broad scope of events and personal viewpoints, it is eminently readable. Her wide-ranging research in a variety of sources, including interviews, affords the sort of multidimensional approach which this story requires."
--Willard H. Elsbree, Ohio University; Published in The American Political Science Review (1973)

 



BUY THE BOOK!


Woman Against the Raj

Women Against the Raj; the Rani of Jhansi Regiment, is the history of the women's unit of the Indian National Army, fighting for Indian independence from Britain during World War II. Most of the the recruits were teenagers from Malayan rubber plantations who had never seen India, yet volunteered to fight and possibly die to liberate India. This is their extraordinary story.
--S.R. Nathan, President of Singapore

"One of the most distinguished American historians of Asia, Professor Joyce Lebra has written an innovative and path-breaking book on Indian women who took up arms against the British raj during the Second World War. Women Against Raj will be warmly welcomed as a major contribution to the fields of international history, military history and women's history."
--Sugata Bose, Gardiner Professor of History, Harvard University

 


Shaping Hawai'i; the Voices of Women: Honolulu: Goodale Press, 1991. Honorable mention, Ka Palapala Po'okela Awards, 2000.3rd paperback printing, 1999; a Reprint of Women's Voices in Hawaii, Boulder, Colorado: University Press of Colorado, 1991.

Shaping Hawai'i; the Voices of Women is a reprint of Women's Voices in Hawaii; Oral histories of the Islands' first settlers, representatives of the nine different ethnic groups that make up Hawaii.

"Joyce Chapman Lebra, through skills as an interviewer, has allowed 50 women in their late 70s or 80s to tell their stories about living and working, and in most cases, raising families, in Hawaii. The result is a unique history of Hawaii from World War I until 1985 when the interviews were recorded. ... The book is a revelation to younger women, raised in liberated times, of an era within this century when their grandmothers had only those rights that parents or husbands granted them. The book is like reading the diary of a stranger, but recognizing familiar places and traditions of Hawaii. In sharing the joys, sorrows and the concerns of these women, the reader hears authentic voices and is left with a sense of understanding and pride."
--Lois Taylor, Honalulu Star-Bulletin (1992)

 

BUY THE BOOK!

BUY THE BOOK!


Durga's Sword, Delhi: HarperCollins, 1995. Historical fiction.

This is a fictional treatent of India's national Heroine, The Rani of Jhansi, who in India's First War of Independence, otherwise known as the Sepoy Rebellion, was killed by the British in 1858 fighting for her state. Martyrd, she became a legend, still celebrated in India in statuary, paintings, poetry, ballads, and cinema. This is a companion volume to the non-fiction volume, The Rani of Jhansi.

 

BUY THE BOOK!


The Rani of Jhansi; a Study in Female Heroism in India, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1986. Dean's Writing Award, University of Colorado.

"This book should be fascinating reading for all interested in Asian history, particularly for those who did not live through the tumultuous era in which the INA also appeared on the terrain of wartime South East Asia. This eloquent and evocative account of that Regiment by Professor Joyce Lebra, is a conscientious contribution toward the debate on the INA and the Rani of Jhansi Regiment's role and gives a better understanding of its contribution to India's Independence struggle."
--S.R. Nathan, President of Singapore

"The Rani of Jhansi: A Study in Female Heroism in India is both a superb analysis of resistance to the British during the 1857 revolt and an astute insight into the creation of a legend."
--Sugata Bose, Gardiner Professor of History, Harvard University

"Lebra-Chapman's study is structured around the question: how does a historical character become a legend? To explain the emergence of the Rani as a really popular historical character and her elevation as a mythic figure of Indian female heroism, Lebra-Chapman has painstakingly examined the ballads, poetry, folktales, and stories from the untapped repository of folk art and oral traditions in North Central India. The result is a competent biography, suitable for both graduate and undergraduate students of British-Indian history."
--N. Nath Kalia, SUNY at Buffalo (1987)

 

BUY THE BOOK!


Women and Work in India, ed., New Delhi: Promilla, 1984.

"Third in a series on women in Asia, this volume consists of a collection of brief chapters by seven American and four Indian authors. The focus, we are informed in the introduction, is on 'work as a salient sector of women's lives, affecting and affected by other sectors.'"
--Alice Thorner, Pacific Affairs (1986)

 

BUY THE BOOK!


Chinese Women in Southeast Asia, ed.,Singapore: Times Books International, 1980.

[The authors] "interviewed women in the family, women (and men) outside the family, women in traditional bazaar and service occupations, women in the medical professions, and older women as well. Large populations were not involved and statistical sampling techniques were not used. Rather, people were spoken with and the results were correlated to create this important preliminary survey. The result is a fascinating oral-history complication which was conducted from interviews spread over the two months of December, 1976 and January, 1977."
--Donald Richie, Japan Times (1982)

 

Women in Changing Japan, ed., Boulder,Colorado: Westview Press,1976. Stanford University Press paperback, 1978.

"An unusual book, it succeeds in pinpointing the specific areas of conflict between traditional and modern lifestyles, old and new social customs, ancient and modern concepts of education for women and the dilemmas which freedom to think, act, buy and play independently have created for women in changing Japan."
--K.D., Royal Society for Asian Affairs (1977)

"The publication of Women in Changing Japan was a needed shock to those interested in women's studies in Japan. ... The vivid descriptions of specific cases undoubetdly represent the reality of many women's lives in Japan today."
--Yoriko Meguro, Sophia University, Japan; Published in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture & Society (1979)

 

Japanese-trained Armies in Southeast Asia; Independence and Volunteer Forces in World War II, Columbia University Press and Heinemann Educational Books: Hong Kong 1977. In Japanese: Shuei Shobo, 1981.

"Japanese-Trained Armies in Southeast Asia is essential reading for students of anti-colonial nationalism in South and Southeast Asia."
--Sugata Bose, Gardiner Professor of History, Harvard University

"The author probes the thinking and the actions of the Japanese as prewar anticolonialists, wartime recidivists, and end-of-war escapists. It is a tangeled world of cloak-and-dagger intrigue, improvisation and opportunism, and not unsubstantial idealism on the part of the mentors and the trainees."
--Monumenta Nipponica (1978)

 

BUY THE BOOK!


Japan's Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere; Selected Readings and Documents, Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1975.

"This publication focuses on a complex of ideas, institutions and policies long since due for intensive scrutiny by students of comparitive imperialism, Japanese history, and Asian international relations."
--Gordon Mark Berger, Monumenta Nipponica (1976)

 

Okuma Shigenobu, Statesman of Meiji Japan, Canberra: Australian University Press 1973. In Japanese, Waseda University Press, 1980.

Okuma Shigenobu was a leading statesman who helped guide Japan into the modern era during the Meiji Restoration. He concistently urged the adoption of British-style parliamentary government when his colleagues favored a German model. He founded a major political party and Waseda University.

 

Women Against The RAJ

Women Against the Raj; the Rani of Jhansi Regiment, is the history of the women's unit of the Indian National Army, fighting for Indian independence from Britain during World War II. Most of the the recruits were teenagers from Malayan rubber plantations who had never seen India, yet volunteered to fight and possibly die to liberate India ...

read more...

The Scent of Sake

A 19th century Japanese woman who overcomes tremendous obstacles to build a sake empire and a family dynasty at a time when women were forbidden to do business. Coming in February, 2009!

read more...

The Indian National Army and Japan

This is a reprint of Jungle Alliance; Japan and the Indian National Army, published in 1971 by the Asia/Pacific Press in Singapore. The study traces the origins of the Indian National Army in the imagination of Iwaichi Fujiwara, a young Japanese intelligence officer, and the relationship between the Imperial Japanese Army and the Indian National Army ...

read more...

Cane Fires

Cane Fires is the shocking stoory of the murder of Hawaiians over land issues, based on actual murders. In this fictional version Lei Ferreira seeks to protect her Hawaiian heritage and family land against the machinations of a powerful sugar company. She is inspired by the words of activist George Helm who protests the suppression of Hawaiian culture and is thereafter lost mysteriously at sea. The sugar baron's son Mark Driscoll is caught between his father's nefarious plot to take the Ferreira land and his growing involvement with Lei. It seems that the Hawaiian Renaissance will be accompanied by bloodshed, as with the struggles of native peoples everywhere...

read more...