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Stranger in the Shogun's City

A Japanese Woman and Her World

Read by Joy Osmanski
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* Nominated for the 2020 National Book Critics Circle Award * Finalist for the 2021 PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography *

A vivid, deeply researched work of history that explores the life of an unconventional woman during the first half of the 19th century in Edo—the city that would become Tokyo—and a portrait of a great city on the brink of a momentous encounter with the West.

The daughter of a Buddhist priest, Tsuneno was born in a rural Japanese village and was expected to live a traditional life much like her mother’s. But after three divorces—and a temperament much too strong-willed for her family’s approval—she ran away to make a life for herself in one of the largest cities in the world: Edo, a bustling metropolis at its peak.

With Tsuneno as our guide, we experience the drama and excitement of Edo just prior to the arrival of American Commodore Perry’s fleet, which transformed Japan. During this pivotal moment in Japanese history, Tsuneno bounces from tenement to tenement, marries a masterless samurai, and eventually enters the service of a famous city magistrate. Tsuneno’s life provides a window into 19th-century Japanese culture—and a rare view of an extraordinary woman who sacrificed her family and her reputation to make a new life for herself, in defiance of social conventions.

Immersive and fascinating, Stranger in the Shogun’s City is a revelatory work of history, layered with rich detail and delivered with beautiful prose, about the life of a woman, a city, and a culture.

Photograph by Brian McConkey

Amy Stanley is an associate professor of history at Northwestern University. She lives in Evanston, Illinois, with her husband and two children, but Tokyo will always be her favorite city in the world.

"This audiobook blurs the line between fiction and nonfiction as the author illuminates the story of Tsuneno, a young woman who lived in nineteenth-century Japan. Joy Osmanski does a fine job of telling this well-researched story; her voice is measured and reserved, maintaining a steady pace as Tsuneno journeys from birth through a series of marriages. Osmanski offers confident pronunciations and navigates the information-packed text with ease. Her delivery is comfortable with the amount of detail being presented, and her gentle voice moves from chapter to chapter without a hitch. This audiobook is well produced. . . . The devoted listener will likely be enchanted."

– AudioFile Magazine

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