THE GIRL WITH CATERPILLARS ON HER FACE concerns a young woman in ninth century Japan who rebels against the natural beautification required of her. She refuses to blacken her teeth, pluck or shave all her eyebrows off, whiten her face with rice powder or even trim her hair. Worse, she loves insects!
Here’s the beginning of Chapter One:
“Toshi! Drop those awful things and come here right now! Your father and I need to talk to you.”
Toshi gazed lovingly at the squirming worm-like creature in her hand. “Well, I guess I’ll just have to put you in your cage for now.” She sighed as she placed the caterpillar in a little bamboo cage. Then with one hand she shifted her almost floor-length shiny hair behind her. With the other, she gathered the long skirts of her kimonos and stood up from the window.
“Guess you have to go.” A young boy’s voice echoed from outside.
“Thanks, Hatsu. He’s beautiful.” Toshi waved at him.
“Goodbye!” A small boy in pale green trousers and jacket waved back and walked away.
Toshi worked hard not to be discouraged. She knew what was coming — “the talk.” I just don’t understand why my mother keeps trying. She really doesn’t understand.
She walked quickly into the living room where her parents were seated on their cushions. “Good morning Honorable parents.” She bowed, as usual, and sat on her cushion in front of them.,
“Don’t look so glum,” her father said with a small smile. “We’re not here to nag you about how you choose to look.”
“This is something I think you will find very exciting,” her mother added. “Your father has found a young man.”
“Yes. Someone the matchmaker found who happens to work in my office.”
Toshi nodded her head and shoulders in a tiny bow. Oh bother. What do they have for me now? “Does he at least like nature?”
Toshi’s parents looked at each other, their eyes wide. “Well, I think he does,” her father said. “Yes, yes. I believe he really does.”
“Must I see him?” Toshi asked. She knew the way she looked was different. She knew she was old enough to blacken her teeth. That was fine for her sisters, but it was so unnatural.