Where the Wild Ladies Are

by Aoko Matsuda

List Price: $16.95
Paperback | 5.5 x 8.2, 288 pages | ISBN 9781593766900

In this witty and exuberant collection of feminist retellings of traditional Japanese folktales, humans live side by side with spirits who provide a variety of useful services–from truth-telling to babysitting, from protecting castles to fighting crime.

A busybody aunt who disapproves of hair removal; a pair of door-to-door saleswomen hawking portable lanterns; a cheerful lover who visits every night to take a luxurious bath; a silent house-caller who babysits and cleans while a single mother is out working. Where the Wild Ladies Are is populated by these and many other spirited women–who also happen to be ghosts. This is a realm in which jealousy, stubbornness, and other excessive “feminine” passions are not to be feared or suppressed, but rather cultivated; and, chances are, a man named Mr. Tei will notice your talents and recruit you, dead or alive (preferably dead), to join his mysterious company.

In this witty and exuberant collection of linked stories, Aoko Matsuda takes the rich, millenia-old tradition of Japanese folktales–shapeshifting wives and foxes, magical trees and wells–and wholly reinvents them, presenting a world in which humans are consoled, guided, challenged, and transformed by the only sometimes visible forces that surround them.

An audacious book, a collection of ghost stories that’s spooky, original and defiantly feminist . . . Like the subject matter of the book, Matsuda’s writing, and Polly Barton’s masterful translation, seems to exist on a higher plane . . . These aren’t the same old horror stories you’ve encountered before--they’re novel, shimmering masterworks from a writer who seems incapable of being anything less than original.

—Michael Schaub, NPR

In her collection of interlinked stories, Aoko Matsuda reimagines traditional Japanese folktales and ghost stories with a feminist twist, positioning women at the center of narratives that are simultaneously life-like and surreal . . . Throughout Where the Wild Ladies Are, Matsuda makes witty and pointed observations about mortality, connection and freedom.

—Annabel Gutterman, TIME

These ghosts are not the monstrous, vengeful spirits of the original stories; they are real people with agency and personalities, finally freed from the restraints placed on living women. Funny, beautiful, surreal and relatable, this is a phenomenal book.

—Claire Kohda Hazleton, The Guardian

Full of surprises--and ghosts--this collection of cheeky and creepy feminist retellings of Japanese folktales will keep you reading deep into the night.

—Karla Strand, Ms. Magazine

It may be the spookiest month of the year but this isn’t your usual collection of ghost stories. Translated by Polly Barton, Where the Wild Ladies Are is a modern retelling of traditional Japanese folktales. Matsuda provides a feminist twist to the surreal short stories, adding her unique brand of wit, weirdness and wonder.

—Tierney Bricker, E!

Want a book of ghost stories that will have you ooh-ing over your cocoa? Go check out the children’s section. Want a book of ghost stories that will have you screaming around a Big Gulp-size serving of Adult Beverage? These tales are warped and reinvented from traditional Japanese ghost stories, and they go barrelling through hair salons and domestic kitchens and modern factories. Whether you’ll identify more closely with the mortals or the ghosts is an open question.


Reading these re-imagined Japanese folktales is a true, delirious pleasure--the uplifting, unwinding kind that otherwise feels in short supply these days. In Where the Wild Ladies Are, Aoko Matsuda has taken traditional stories and infused them with an unhinged feminist energy that feels subversive, sly, and nothing short of revelatory. It’s a reinvention that offers up a whole new way to look at all our foundational myths, and allows us to conceive of a present and future that prioritizes openness and absurdity instead of restricting paradigms and dogma.

—Kristin Iversen, Refinery29

Matsuda’s eerie and bewitching short story collection updates traditional Japanese ghost stories with a feminist bent . . . The stories are coy, ambiguous, and just the right amount of creepy.

—Arianna Rebolini, BuzzFeed

The world is not an easy place, and being alive is difficult. Being dead, though . . . is also difficult . . . Where the Wild Ladies Are by Aoko Matsuda wants you to know that existence for all beings--including ghosts, humans, kitsune, and even an oddly-shaped tree--is full of struggle, and that female beings face particular challenges . . . This gently delightful collection of stories provides new twists on old stories and maintains a much-needed tone of optimism and resilience throughout.

—Christina Ladd, The Nerd Daily

Matsuda’s short story collection, Where the Wild Ladies Are, recently published by Soft Skull Press and translated again by Barton, offers a sort of corrective for the female suffering that has always pervaded storytelling. Through a series of interlinked stories, Matsuda blends existing legends with new stories to give women the agency and power that they often lack in our traditional narratives. In revisiting and reimagining centuries-old tales, she draws connections between the past and present, emphasizing the ways in which history is never really over.

—Sophia Stewart, Asymptote

In this delightful, sharp, poignant collection of linked short stories, Matsuda writes feminist retellings of Japanese folk tales populated by ghosts, all of them women, who are recruited into a mysterious company run by Mr. Tei. These stories are such a joy to read, with a soothing and refreshing quality that centers and celebrates ’feminine’ energy, which is as expansive here as it is in real life.

—Sarah Neilson, Literary Hub

Matsuda’s groundbreaking collection turns traditional Japanese ghost and yōkai stories on their heads by championing wild, complex women . . . Matsuda’s subversive revisionist tales are consistently exciting.

Publishers Weekly

Preface any storytelling format with ’traditional, ’ and audiences will have no expectations of feminist agency. Thankfully, prizewinning Japanese writer Matsuda imagines reclamation and brilliantly transforms fairy tales and folk legends into empowering exposés, adventures, manifestos . . . Adroitly translated by UK-based Polly Barton . . . Matsuda enthralls with both insight and bite.

—Terry Hong, Booklist (starred review)

Matsuda has done a stellar job of rendering her ghostly characters human and understandable, even the spookiest ones. Her human protagonists are also thoroughly relatable, whether depressed by the job market, their dating lives, or other pressures to fit in that are constricting them in their ability to desire. I read the collection cover to cover, then sifted through it again for a closer appreciation of the prose and the humor.

—Lee Mandelo, Tor.com

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