A young woman tells her own story, through the lives of her Japanese mothers and grandmothers, who moved to America in order to marry Japanese men that had gone before. Like Walt Whitman, sometimes she tells her story by vignettes, in a few words, or a sentence, listed one after another, that glimpse life in this strange new land.
Somehow, it was constantly surprising to hear the California middle class towns identified as home to a people still rooted in the old country. America was the land of opportunity. The women were often, maybe more often than not, rudely surprised by what they found when they came to America. But their families made it clear they could never return, that there was no more home for them in Japan. So, having made a choice, or their family having made a choice for them, they simply do whatever is necessary in order to survive. They usually marry the men they contracted for, and put up with them, warts and all. The author makes no effort to present the women as angels; just as hardworking, unquestioning, obedient, partners to their husbands. The story shifts gradually to the Japanese people as a whole in America, who made the best of a new world, became functioning and integral parts of their communities, and were rewarded with distrust and alienation during WW II. Yet, her story gleams with gentleness, caring for her people and regretting not an instant that she is American.
Most of the Audible readers do a wonderful job, and these readers were no different. They keep the story moving, injecting feeling, characterization, and rhythm to the story. I read about a book a week on Kindle, but I absorb books nearly as quickly on audible, listening at every opportunity. In this story, it is a woman's story, told through the voices of women, gentle, but unsparing, not in the least pointlessly sweet or adorned.
I have listened to two other books since this one, but the sweet thoughtfulness of the story, the relentless telling of the lives of others in diamond flashes rather than long biographies, the sense of an entire people trying so hard to be accepted, will live on for me for a long time.
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