Dendo: One Year and One Half in Tokyo, a Review
Dendo: One Year and One Half in Tokyo, by Brittany Long Olson is a comic-style memoir, or really daily journal, of one missionary’s experience from the MTC to Tokyo starting from day 1 in the MTC and ending on the flight back home. It came out a couple of years ago and received accolades from Deseret News and received the 2015 Association for Mormon Letters Award in Comics. I was lucky to receive a digital copy for review here.
To start I think it is vital to point out the two largest differences between the narrator, Long Shimai and me:
- I’ve never been on a mission.
- I really like biking places.
Because of the first, I didn’t have the ability to look back and think of how her experience compared to my own, which I think is probably one of the biggest allures of reading this book. I didn’t go on a mission, but I could totally imagine the nostalgia I’d feel reading it if I had. If you like mostly cheery nostalgia, this is the book for you.
Because of the second, a couple of times I spent a few moments in confusion, “How can someone be complaining about biking places? You can move yourself and extra stuff at a quick speed with the force of your own body!” It amazes me almost every time I get on the bike. I’ll admit drivers are too fast and close, though.
Anyway, I say “mostly cheery” nostalgia because Long Olson doesn’t shy away from some of the frustrations: flaky investigators, fruitless hours “housing” ( tracting), companion personality mismatch. But the art and comic form keeps you from going into great despair when those scenes appear.
The art itself is neat and the lettering is easy to read. I’m not the greatest doodler in the world, so I spent a good portion of my time amazed that the characters looked relatively consistent throughout and are distinguishable. But that is why she’s an artist and I’m not.
This memoir answers lots of questions about missionaries: What do they do all day? How can you account every hour working for the Lord? Interspersed in missionary work, some days’ entries are explanations and descriptions of missionary culture and Japanese culture. Shimai Long was a missionary when the missionary ages were lowered and when women missionaries were given more leadership opportunities in district, zone, and mission leadership and getting a peak into the response and reactions of the people actively working in the field at that time.
I really enjoyed reading this over the past couple of weeks. With the holidays coming up, I think it’d be a great gift for yourself or your favorite RM, even a great gift for a young person preparing for a mission. It’s cute, poignant, and funny.