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Fifty Words for Rain

Fifty Words for Rain By Asha Lemmie Summary

Spanning decades and continents, Fifty Words for Rain is a dazzling epic about the ties that bind, the ties that give you strength, and what it means to be free.

Such is eight-year-old Noriko “Nori” Kamiza’s first lesson. She will not question why her mother abandoned her with only these final words. She will not fight her confinement to the attic of her grandparents’ imperial estate. And she will not resist the scalding chemical baths she receives daily to lighten her skin.

The child of a married Japanese aristocrat and her African American GI lover, Nori is an outsider from birth. Her grandparents take her in, only to conceal her, fearful of a stain on the royal pedigree that they are desperate to uphold in a changing Japan. Obedient to a fault, Nori accepts her solitary life, despite her natural intellect and curiosity.

But when chance brings her older half-brother, Akira, to the estate that is his inheritance and destiny, Nori finds in him an unlikely ally with whom she forms a powerful bond—a bond their formidable grandparents cannot allow and that will irrevocably change the lives they were always meant to lead. Because now that Nori has glimpsed a world in which perhaps there is a place for her after all, she is ready to fight to be a part of it—a battle that just might cost her everything.

About the Author

Asha Lemmie is the New York Times Bestselling Author of Fifty Words For Rain. After graduating from Boston College with a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing, she relocated to New York City where she worked in book publishing. Asha writes historical fiction that focuses on bringing unique perspectives to life. In normal times, she divides her time between New York, London, and Kyoto.

Fifty Words for Rain By Asha Lemmie Introduction

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


Kyoto, Japan
Summer 1950
It came quickly, the pain. It arrived with startling fanfare. Nothing could stop it once it had set on its morbid path.

The pain came quickly. It was the going that took longer.

Nori almost welcomed the onset of the pain, knowing that it was the best of what was to come. First there was the tingling, like a little feather tapping out a jig on her skin. Then there was the slow burn. One by one, every nerve in her body began to scream until they were screeching in unison, forming a chorus of protest. Then there were the tears. Nori had learned in her younger years not to fight the tears, as it only made them worse.

The fight would lead to her gasping for air, sucking it in through her nose in ragged spurts and feeling her rib cage squeeze tight. Snot would dribble from her nose and mingle with her tears, forming a sickening brew that too often dripped into her open mouth.

It was better to accept the tears, with as much grace and dignity as could be mustered. They would fall silently down her cheeks, constant and cool like a babbling brook.

There was some self-respect in that, at least.

“We’re done for today, Ojosama.”

Nori forced her stinging eyes to focus on the speaker: a maid in her early thirties, with a round, jolly face and a warm smile.

“Thank you, Akiko-san.”

The maid gently helped Nori rise from the porcelain bathtub, offering an arm for the ten-year-old to lean on as she stood.

The sharp gust of air on her naked body made her let out a little cry, and her knees buckled. Akiko stopped her from falling and, with strength that was surprising for her petite size, bodily lifted Nori from the tub and into a waiting chair.

Nori began to rock slowly back and forth, willing the constant motion to steady her shaking core. After a few moments, the pain had subsided just enough so that she could manage opening her eyes. She watched as Akiko washed the mixture of warm water, bleach, and murky specks of almond-colored skin—her skin—down the drain.

Is it working, do you think?” she inquired, resenting the eagerness that crept into her voice. “Akiko-san, do you think it’s working?”

Akiko turned to look at the child who had been left to her care. Nori couldn’t read the look on her face. But then Akiko offered up a tiny smile, and Nori was flooded with relief.

“Yes, little madam, I think so. Your grandmother will be pleased.”

“Do you think I shall have a new dress?”

“Perhaps. If she gives me the money for fabric, I will make you a summer yukata. Your old one scarcely fits you anymore.”

“I would like blue. It is a noble color, isn’t it, Akiko-san?”

Akiko lowered her eyes and proceeded to re-dress Nori in a fresh cotton slip. “Blue would look very pretty on you, little madam.”

“It is Obaasama’s favorite color.”

“Yes. Now, run along. I’ll bring you your meal in an hour.”

Nori forced her limbs to move, ignoring the dull thump of pain. They were working, she knew they were, the daily baths. Her grandmother had sent all the way to Tokyo for the finest magic bath soap that money could buy. Nori bore the pain willingly, as she knew in time that the results would be worth any sufferings.

She would stay in the bath all day if Akiko would let her, but her skin was prone to burning and she was only allowed to stay in it for twenty minutes at a time. Her left leg had a mottled purple burn on it that she had to hide with extra-long skirts, but she did not mind so much because the skin around the burn was wonderfully fair and bright.

She wanted all of her skin to look like that.

She padded through the hall, careful not to make any noise because it was afternoon and her grandmother preferred to sleep in the afternoon. Especially in winter, when it was too cold to pay social visits and the sun set early.

She scurried towards the stairs to the attic, avoiding eye contact with the staff, who seemed to stare at her whenever she crossed their path. Even after two years living in this house, they were still clearly uneasy with her presence.

Akiko had assured her that it wasn’t that they didn’t like her; it was simply that they weren’t used to having children around.

Either way, Nori was relieved to live in the attic, away from everything and everyone else. When she had come to stay here, her grandmother had instructed that the attic be cleaned out and converted into living quarters.

The attic was very spacious, and it was full of things, more things than Nori had ever had before. She had a bed, a dining table and three chairs, a bookshelf, a basket full of knitting and sewing materials, a little altar for her prayers, a stove for the winter months, and an armoire to keep her clothes in.

She had a small little vanity with a stool that, according to Akiko, had once belonged to her mother. She still had her brown suitcase with the purple silk ribbon tied around the handle. She still had the pale blue satchel with the little silver clasp. She kept these two things in a far corner of the room so that she would always know where to find them at a moment’s notice.

But her favorite thing, by far, was the half-moon-shaped window above her bed that overlooked the gardens. When she stood on the bed (which she was not supposed to do but she did anyway), she could see the fenced-in yard with its green grass and its overgrown, ancient peach trees.

She could see the man-made pond with the koi fish swimming in it and splashing about. She could see the faint outline of neighboring rooftops. As far as Nori was concerned, she could see the entire world.

How many times had she spent all night with her head pressed against the cool, damp glass? Certainly very many, and she considered herself quite fortunate that she had never been caught. That would have been a guaranteed beating.

She had not been allowed to leave the house since the day she arrived. And it was not a terrible sacrifice, not really, because she had rarely been allowed to leave the apartment she’d shared with her mother either.

Still, there were rules, many rules, for living in this house.

The cardinal rule was simple: stay out of sight unless summoned. Remain in the attic. Make no sound. Food was brought to her at set intervals three times a day; Akiko would take her downstairs to the bathroom. During the midday trip, Nori would have her bath.

Three times a week, an old man with a hunched back and failing eyesight would come to her attic and teach her reading, writing, numbers, and history. This one did not feel like a rule—Nori liked lessons. In fact, she was quite gifted at them.

She was always asking Saotome-sensei to bring her new books. Last week, he’d brought her a book in English called Oliver Twist. She could not read a single word of it, but she had resolved to learn. It was such a pretty book, leather-bound and glistening.

And so those were the rules. They weren’t too much to ask, she didn’t think. She didn’t understand them, but then, she didn’t try.

Don’t think.

Nori crept onto her small four-poster bed and pressed her face into the coolness of her pillow. It distracted her from her skin’s persistent tingling. The instinctual desire to escape from pain soon lulled her into a listless sleep.

She had the same dream as always.

She was chasing the blue car as it drove away, calling out for her mother, but could never catch it.

As long as she could remember, Nori’s limbs had been prone to disobedience. They would begin to shake, randomly and uncontrollably, at the slightest hint of trouble. She would have to wrap her arms around her body and squeeze as tightly as she could in order for the trembling to subside.

And so when Akiko informed her that her grandmother would be paying her a visit today, Nori felt her body go weak. She slunk into one of her small wooden dining chairs, no longer trusting her legs to support her.

“Obaasama is coming?”

“Yes, little madam.”

Her grandmother normally came once a month, sometimes twice, to inspect Nori’s living conditions and personal growth.

It seemed that no matter what she did, her grandmother was never pleased. The old woman had impeccable standards and her keen gray eyes never missed a beat. It filled Nori with as much exhilaration as it did dread.

To please her grandmother was a feat that she longed to accomplish. In her mind, it was the most noble of quests.

Nori swept her eyes around her room, suddenly painfully aware of how messy things were. There was a corner of faint yellow bedclothes sticking out. There was a speck of dust on the kerosene lamp on the nightstand. The wood burning in the stove was popping and cracking, a sound that some would surely find irritating.

Wordlessly, the maid began to move about the room, tidying and putting things into their proper place. Akiko too was used to the demands of the lady of the house. She had been working here since she herself was a mere child.

Of course, that meant that Akiko had known Nori’s mother. This was a curious dynamic between them: Nori always wanting to ask and Akiko always wanting to tell, but both too obedient to do either.

What shall I wear?” Nori rasped, hating the sudden waver in her voice. “What do you think?

Nori immediately began to rack her brains. She had a polka-dot navy blue dress, with short sleeves and a lace collar. She had a green kimono with a pale pink sash. She had a bright yellow yukata, which she could wear now that it was summer. And she had a dark purple kimono. That was all.

She began to gnaw gently on the skin inside her left cheek. “The black one,” she said resolutely, answering her own question. Akiko went to the closet and laid it out on the bed.

Nori arrived at this conclusion relatively easily. In contrast to the dark hues of the garment, her skin would appear lighter. Akiko brought the kimono over and began to dress her, while her mind began to wander to other places.

She ran an unsteady hand through her hair. God, she hated her hair. It was thick and boisterous, stubbornly curly despite her daily efforts to tame it with a brush. It was also a peculiar shade of dark brown that Nori likened to the bark of an oak tree. She could not get it to fall straight and free around her shoulders, as her mother’s and grandmother’s did.

However, if she brushed the hair hard against her scalp, it would flatten enough that she could wind it into a long braid that she would tie neatly behind her head. It fell nearly to her waist, and she bound the end of it with a brightly colored ribbon. If she did it that way, it looked almost normal.

She was wearing the red ribbon today, one of her twelve. It was her favorite one, as she thought it brought out the brightness in her champagne-colored gaze. The one thing she did like about her face was her eyes—even her grandmother remarked once, in passing, that they were “quite interesting.”

They were gently almond-shaped, just as they should be. At least there, she did not stand out so much.

Once Nori had been dressed, Akiko took her leave.

Nori made her way to the center of the room and stood, bone straight, waiting. She willed herself not to fidget. She folded her hands neatly in front of her chest, eyeing the skin with mild contempt. It was improving. Two years of the baths and she was starting to see a change. She estimated that in another two years it would be fair enough that she could leave the attic.

Unlike her grandmother, who visited occasionally, her grandfather did his absolute best to avoid her entirely, and besides, as the Emperor’s advisor he was in Tokyo most of the time anyway. On those very rare occasions when they did cross paths, he looked at her with eyes as hard as coal. It always left her feeling cold. She sometimes asked Akiko about him. Her face would flatten and she’d say simply, “He is a very important man, a very powerful man.” And then she would hurriedly change the subject.

Curious as she was, Nori was not fool enough to broach the subject with her grandmother. She remembered her mother’s advice well, and though she still did not understand it much, it had proved to be quite useful. Of course, it did nothing to tell her where her mother was or when she was coming back. Nori tried not to think about these things.

The sound of footsteps alerted Nori to her grandmother’s arrival. Rather than looking up, she lowered her eyes to the floor and dropped into a low bow.

The woman before her was silent for a moment. Then she sighed. “Noriko.”

This was an indication that permission to rise had been granted. Nori straightened slowly, making sure to keep her eyes lowered respectfully.

The old woman walked briskly over to where Nori was standing and, in one deft motion, reached out and lifted her chin with a slender finger.

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Fifty Words for Rain

Fifty Words for Rain PDF

Product details:

EditionInternational Edition
ISBN1524746363, 978-1524746360
Posted onSeptember 1, 2020
Page Count464 pages
AuthorAsha Lemmie

Fifty Words for Rain By Asha Lemmie PDF Free Download - HUB PDF

Spanning decades and continents, Fifty Words for Rain is a dazzling epic about the ties that bind, the ties that give you strength, and what it means to be free.


Author: Asha Lemmie

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