DiscoverBiographies & Memoirs

American Misfit



Part memoir, part adventure travelogue, American Misfit tells the story of a young American clown and variety performer who unwittingly ended up in the belly of the Japanese prison system for what seemed like forever. This darkly funny, stream-of-consciousness journey through prison cells, indecipherable interrogations, and a labyrinth of Tokyo courtrooms is intercut with flashpoints and flashbacks, detailing the author’s offbeat, eccentric experiences in Japan prior to his arrest, a New York/Jewish background, and the recent death of his father. Readers fascinated by the culture clash of East and West will find American Misfit especially relevant, keenly observant, and surprisingly moving. In addition to being a compelling personal memoir, American Misfit is also a homage to anyone who has ever struggled to aim his or her spiritual compass in the right direction.

Day One –– 3:30 p.m.


Knock knock.


            Must be someone from a Tokyo post office, delivering Rosh Hashanah cookies from my mother. It’s that time of year. Sweet, fresh baked cookies arriving in the middle of a sunny Monday afternoon, as I relax on a futon in my local Shinjuku digs, ‘cept my mom serves apples and honey for the Jewish New Year and what a mess that would be to mail. Maybe it’s not the post office, or cookies. I can’t understand what else the guy is saying.

            Knock knock.


            Maybe it’s a sushi salesman.

            Knock knock.


            It’s my day off and I don’t want to get up but three time’s the charm.

            “Okay. Choto mate. I’m coming.”

            I slide the door open and all these feet jam inside. Bodies follow fast. Strange men in blue salary suits zoom into my one-room house. It’s a danger dose of polyester. Shirts, pants, jackets––all synthetic. Blue. Nylon socks smell and slide across the floor. My floor. Their socks. No invitation. They’ve left their shoes outside. 

            Men can be so sensitive as they violate. 

            They talk all at once. Heads are twitching. Their mouths make noise like tense birds. They strike matches and blow. Smoke gets in our eyes. They’re yapping at each other. My ears are pestered with bumbling English. They can’t avoid bumping into things. They’re battery bunnies on speed, inspecting every centimeter of my home. So many people, so little space. It’s an invasion. It’s an invasion of relentless little fuckers in blue uniform socks.

            The phrase, “Narcotics Police” pops up like a hot potato. No part of me willing to catch it. I pretend not to hear. They search and buzz like nasty bees. Meticulous. They have an urgent job to do. The potato’s hot.


            I nod. I feel a small snap in my neck.

            The phrase, “Narcotics Police” repeats itself. The scalding potato is searing my hands. I’m Bambi, caught in the headlights. I close my eyes. Can this moment become a rainy Saturday afternoon with a wonderfully mediocre Asian adventure movie playing on the television somewhere in the next room? 

            I have a one-room apartment.

            Acknowledgment is too excruciating. I’m a Jew. Confession is not in my vocabulary. Escape? I’ll besnagged in a medley of blue before I’m halfway down the narrow wooden stairway. 

            I’m dead meat. Shocked. Denial is a tonic.          

            It’s easier for now staying right here, pretending this is not happening. There’s no time to hide, anyway. No time to hide IT. If I run and get caught, IT remains, and then they’ll have me, and IT, hand in hand, out of breath, and scratched and bruised and bleeding. There’ll be TV highlights, of course, with brutal, menacing, chase details, lots of cheering crowds with their own agenda, and adorable, sturdy women determined to prevent the foreigner’s escape. 

            And the close-ups, the never ending, zoom-in-your-face close-ups, telling the world what it needs to know, what it yearns for and slices and dices for––that the world is not so full of loveliness, because they finally catch up and they get you, hold you hard, and ramrod their justice home. Bend over, you miserable heathen!

            That is me.

            It’s a classic story of innocence and injustice: The foreigner violates sovereign territory with base and banal behavior. The host country is pained by the insolence of this invader. The alien fool ingests drugs when alcohol might suffice, violating Japan’s sacred National Drink and Trust. Moral bankruptcy ensues! Insults fly! Hearts wrench!          Stop the press. Stop it!

            The truth: He did it in the privacy of his own house, your Honor, but unmoved by his gentle spirit, we will not tolerate it. Oh no, we won’t. Don’t think for a second that we will, because we won’t. We will crush him before he crushes us. We, and only we, determine right and wrong. The foreign boy has sinned and can never run fast enough. Our net is vast and can’t be avoided. 

            In short, he’s fucked. 

            In short, he’s me.

About the author

David Tabatsky is a writer, editor, teacher and performing artist, based in New York City. His memoir, American Misfit, was released in 2017. He has co-written, and edited several memoirs of people surviving cancer, stroke, and abuse, as well as numerous self-help guides. view profile

Published on November 19, 2017

Published by

60000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Biographies & Memoirs

Enjoyed this review?

Get early access to fresh indie books and help decide on the bestselling stories of tomorrow. Create your free account today.


Or sign up with an email address

Create your account

Or sign up with your social account