Sorry, I’m back on that autism beat once more. Murata’s book covers were just too aesthetically pleasing to not read right away. Well, at least this one. I almost launched straight into Earthlings after this before learning of its laundry list of content warnings and deciding to put a pin in that for the moment. It’s never officially stated that our main character in Convenience Store Woman is autistic, but her copy-pasting of others phrases, expressions, and tone, her obsession with her job, and the incidents she recounts from her childhood all point towards her falling on that spectrum. Regardless of if she is or not, she’s othered in another key way, which is that she’s just a woman who enjoys working at a convenience store and doesn’t aspire for anything else, be it a different job, a partner, or children. This is something that we, as a society, tend to look down upon. Whenever talk of the minimum wage getting raised starts, plenty of people come out of the woodwork to argue that not all jobs are deserving of a living wage, that jobs such as a convenience store are easy and not deserving of more money and respect. Yet, at the same time, you tell them they can’t come into the store without a mask during the pandemic, because those essential workers are trying to not die due to being forced to maintain close contact with countless other people on a daily basis, and those same people are bound to go nuclear. They’ll talk down to them, insult them, fail to treat them with common human decency, but if they can’t get their damned cigarettes because nobody wants to work the counter due to subhuman wages, that’s no good either. There’s a reason virtually every person who has ever worked a day of their lives in customer service of any sort has two thoughts: one, that everybody should be required to work customer service at least once, and two, that people who mistreat those in customer service are scum. Still, by and large, the sentiment that your convenience store workers, your McDonald’s employees, etc. are somehow lesser than seems to remain a constant in spite of all that. It’s something our society can never seem to shake. However, in Convenience Store Woman, we see a woman who, by book’s end, says “fuck y’all” and is content to exist as just what the title says, a convenience store woman, nothing more and nothing less. We see her struggling throughout the book with concerns about whether she should be different, or somehow “more” than what she is, but the answer to that question winds up being a resounding no. Whether it’s her seeming autism, or her position within society, she’s where she wants to be and screw anybody who tries to say anything untoward about it. Not everybody has to dream big. Not everybody is destined for something great. The world needs convenience store women, it needs maids, it needs McDonald’s workers, it needs plumbers. So stop trying to strongarm them out of their own happiness because, to you, it’s somehow not enough, or strange. What harm is there in accepting that somebody is simply different from you and so you your starting point should always be there, not how they can be molded into someone more like you and everybody else?
P.S. I apologize for getting a tad rambly. I worry I may’ve lost the thread somewhat and that this review might not make a load of sense, but I thought it best that I just keep it as is, stream-of-consciousness style, because I feel like it might convey how I helped talk myself up from 4 stars to 5 in the very process of rambling (due to becoming so impassioned in my discussion of the book).