Richman, Alyson 1972(?)–
Richman, Alyson 1972(?)–
PERSONAL: Born c. 1972; married; children: a son. Education: Wellesley College, B.A., 1994.
The Mask Carver's Son, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2000.
Swedish Tango, Atria Books (New York, NY), 2004.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A novel about the final days in the life of Vincent van Gogh.
SIDELIGHTS: Granted a fellowship for graduate study and travel abroad, Alyson Richman used the award to research Japanese Meiji artists who had studied Western painting in Europe, and she also served as an apprentice to a Noh mask carver in Japan. The experience inspired Richman to write her first novel, The Mask Carver's Son, which is set in the early twentieth century and focuses on Kiyoki Yamamoto, the son of a Noh mask carver and grandson of a Noh stage actor. Although Kiyoki strives to become an artist, he strays from the path of tradition by learning European-style painting. As a result, he experiences a rift in his relationship with his father. His problems are further compounded when he returns to Japan from study in France to put on an exhibition of his work. A resounding failure, the exhibit leaves Kiyoki realizing that he is now also estranged from his homeland and the culture of his youth. In a review in Booklist, Veronica Scrol commented that "the poignant ending … is a moving acknowledgment of the price one often pays for daring to forge one's own identity." A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that Richman's "reverent, formal and ambitious first novel boasts a glossy surface and convincing period detail." Shirley N. Quan noted in Library Journal that the author "has successfully drawn upon her historical research … to produce a unique and deeply moving work."
In her second novel, Swedish Tango, Richman tells how actor Octavio Ribeiro's work helping Salvador Allende handle the media in his successful run for the Chilean presidency ultimately had catastrophic effects on Octavio's life and family. Octavio's wife, Salome, is later kidnapped as revenge after Allende's fall from power. Although Octavio, Salome, and their children eventually receive politically asylum in Sweden, Salome later leaves Octavio after having an affair with her guilt-ridden therapist. Nearly two decades pass before Octavio and Salome meet again as Salome is asked to testify against members of the Pinochet government who had kidnapped her years earlier and who are under investigation for various crimes and atrocities. A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that the author's story "pits political morality against personal loyalty." Maureen Neville, writing in Library Journal, called the novel "a heart-wrenching story of loss and love."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, January 1, 2000, Veronica Scrol, review of The Mask Carver's Son, p. 878.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2004, review of Swedish Tango, p. 832.
Library Journal, December, 1999, Shirley N. Quan, review of The Mask Carver's Son, p. 188; November 1, 2004, Maureen Neville, review of Swedish Tango, p. 77.
Publishers Weekly, December 6, 1999, review of The Mask Carver's Son, p. 54.
AllReaders.com, http://www.allreaders.com/ (August 20, 2005), Harriet Klausner, review of Swedish Tango.
Swedish Tango Web site, http://www.swedishtango.com/ (August 20, 2005), brief biography of author.