I Can’t Talk So Smoothly

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I Can’t Talk So Smoothly
Author: Naoya Shiino
Specifications: ISBN  978-4591153239
330 pages
12.5 x 19.5 cm / 5.0 x 7.8 in (WxH)
Category: Children & YA
Publisher: Poplar Publishing Co., Ltd.
Tokyo, 2017
Buy now: amazon.co.jp


All through elementary school, Yūta Kashiwazaki had been the object of ridicule and unable to make friends because of his stuttering. On his first day of middle school, the teacher asks the students to introduce themselves to the class, and the pressure gets to be too much for him: he flees the room before his turn comes. But he is also determined to overcome the problem, so when he sees a membership recruitment flier for the school’s Broadcasting Club that says “Anyone can become a good speaker,” he decides to visit the group’s activity room. He learns that the club is headed by a boy in the ninth grade named Tachibana, the only continuing member, and that there is one other seventh-grader, a girl named Kaya Kobe, who has expressed an interest in joining. Yūta worries about the burden likely to fall on Kaya because his stutter will prevent him from taking the microphone, but he is ultimately persuaded by Tachibana to join.

In the classroom, Kaya makes no effort to interact with other students, but she is nice to Yūta, and he rejoices that he has finally found a friend. She even speaks up for him when others find out about his stuttering. She asks Yūta to help her with the training she’s doing to become a voice actress by reading an anime script with her, but he stumbles so much over the words that he grows increasingly frustrated. Then one day the group’s faculty advisor suggests club members should enter the upcoming city-wide speech contest, and Kaya urges Yūta to take part as well. But it also comes out that the script-reading practice was actually set up as an exercise to help Yūta conquer his stuttering. Since he has already tried various reading exercises, including reading playscripts, to no avail, this demonstration that others think they know better makes him despair of anyone ever being able to understand his pain. He turns his back on Kaya and flees. He also lashes out at his older sister when she reminds him that he needs to keep doing whatever he can to overcome his stutter.

Yūta stops going to school and shuts himself in at home, but Tachibana comes to visit and reveals that Yūta’s sister is being ostracized in the Drama Club because she refused to play a character who stutters. Tachibana also brings with him Kaya’s copy of the anime script, thinking it is Yūta’s. When Yūta discovers that Kaya has written detailed pronunciation notes in her script aimed at helping him out, he realizes that he’s been unfair in dismissing other people’s efforts to help him as “thinking they know better,” and sees that he has been running away not only from them but from himself. He changes his mind and decides to enter the contest after all. In his speech, he addresses the problem of stuttering head-on and expresses his gratitude to his friends and family for their concern. He tells the audience that he likes words for their power to comfort, and that even if the words don’t come out so smoothly he still enjoys speaking. Needless to say, he does not get through his delivery without stuttering. But he has been able to get up in front of a large crowd and express his true feelings without running away. It is a work that seeks to foster a better understanding of dysphemia.