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Dwight Okita
The Invention of Fireflies (a memoir of the Magical & the Monstrous)
Dwight Okita, author

Before he appeared nationally on the Kellogg’s Corn Flakes box dressed as a chef, before he kissed a handsome red-haired poet with an incurable disease, before a mass murderer killed eight women one block from his house -– he was just Dwight. Just another American child born in a hospital in Chicago. Out of the womb, he emerged a person of color (Japanese American). Out of the closet, he emerged as a gay man. Out of necessity, he became a writer, a Buddhist and so many things (a Meetup organizer, a caregiver for seniors, a professional cuddler, and so on).

THE INVENTION OF FIREFLIES: a memoir of the Magical & the Monstrous (about 200 pages) is an aerial view of one American life told in 16 short, poetic chapters. As Okita leaps from era to era, he gives a nod to touchstones along the way -- the gay rights movement, multiculturalism, the Prozac era, the rise of the Far Right, etc. With a hopefulness inherited from his mother, Dwight goes on his way with no idea how bad life can get before it gets better. It takes him a good three decades to find himself, only to lose himself over and over again. His personal monsters manifest as the demon of Bipolar II Disorder, the strokes and heart attacks which run rampant in his family, his inability to sustain romantic relationships beyond six months.

His magic appears in the way he finds the key to enlightenment one night at a bus stop, being chosen for a plum role at a casting call over more deserving actors, watching his first novel rise from the multitudes to become a Top Three Finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest. At the start of life, he has no idea how far down he will fall, or how high up in the air he will fly. If you told him back then that this story you hold in your hands would one day be his story, he would never have believed you.  

Okita stumbles at times on his journey but by the end, it’s a fable of transformation. He has learned how to manage both the magic and the monsters with equal skill. It is his hope that this book will go on to be someone else's guide to making magic.

Plot/Idea: 7 out of 10
Originality: 9 out of 10
Prose: 8 out of 10
Character/Execution: 8 out of 10
Overall: 8.00 out of 10


Plot/Idea: The Invention of Fireflies is a tender, charming, and often irreverent memoir that focuses on the author's immediate experiences while bookmarking them with broader moments of cultural significance.

Prose: Okita's writing is warm, with an appealing poetic lilt. Sentences flow naturally, and the book is thoughtfully organized.

Originality: Okita's lived experience is unique, and his written account follows suit. Rather than proceed purely chronologically, the narrative selects key moments from the author's life, connecting them thematically. 

Character/Execution: Okita emerges as an endearing individual and a capable storyteller. While The Invention of Fireflies includes painful reflections on the path to self-discovery and mental health struggles, the vignette-style chapters don't always allow for a true depth of feeling or significant tension.

Date Submitted: January 15, 2024