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Review: Because the Angels by Kathleen Kern

Kathleen KernSpike Darbyfield is a hard nut to crack.  Though unafraid to speak her (opinionated) mind, Spike remains detached from those around her.  She’d rather invest her emotions in watching Blood+ or working on a novel inspired by Samurai Champloo than in people.  There is one person in her life, though, that Spike is crazy about – her sister, Margie, who is part of a Christian peacekeeping mission in Iraq.

However, Spike’s sheltered world is altered forever when she receives an emergency phone call.  Margie has been kidnapped by a group of militant Iraqis.

Thus begins Kathleen Kern’s unique story combining anime with spiritual, political, and social elements, and inspired by Kern’s experiences with Christian Peacemaker Teams, which faced a similar crisis in 2005-06.   I’d first heard of this novel while reading an article Kern had written, which told of an underlying theme in this movie: the sacred meeting the profane.  Spike is the epitome of this theme.  While her sister is part of a Christian organization and her birth father a pastor, Spike doesn’t believe in God and uses foul language effortlessly.  It’s difficult to warm up to her at first.  But as the novel progresses and she opens up, even if its bit by bit, we, too, as readers begin to understand Spike and hope for her as she deals with the pain of not knowing whether her sister will live or die, while having to develop relationships with others, something she has also avoided (unless those relationships are with 2D characters). Read the rest of this entry

Interview with Kathleen Kern, Author of Because the Angels

Kathleen Kern is a part of Christian Peacemaker Teams, an organization which seeks to transform areas under occupation or war through non-violent methods.  She is also an anime fan, and brought this interest together with a passion for her work in Because the Angels, a novel featuring a protagonist who is Blood+ obsessed.  She was gracious enough to answer a few questions for us.

TWWK: Kathleen, your main character is a woman who is obsessed with anime, particularly Blood+.  What compelled you to create such a character and to use anime as such an important part of the novel?

Kathleen:  I had insomnia one night and was looking through the channels.  The name “Samurai Champloo” just struck me as funny for reason, and when I tuned in–somewhere in the middle of the series, I thought it was funny and liked the fluid drawing.  I liked the way that Mugen and Jin kind of looked semi-realistic, but Fuu looked like big-eyed anime characters.  I’ve always been a sucker for stories that mix humor with pathos (I pretty much learned to read, by reading Heidi over and over again), which Samurai Champloo does.  I think Blood+ was playing after Samurai Champloo, which has more pathos than humor, but the story line and the music drew me in.  In hindsight, I realize that I started on shows with a more artistic bent than most anime series.  If I had started on Inuyasha, for example, I don’t think I would have gotten sucked in (but I actually ended up watching the whole Inuyasha series, as well as some other “lessers.”) Read the rest of this entry


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