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Polite Lies: On Being a Woman Caught Between Cultures

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2012

    Awesome Japanese Cultural Read!!

    I loved the essay format. I really got an emotional account of Japanese culture, which felt unique. But it was also educational. Highly recommended. If you like the sample, buy it, because you'll probably like the whole book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2010

    Poignant Commentary on a Culture Rarely Examined

    Polite Lies by Kyoko Mori explores the similarities and differences between the culture of Mori's childhood country, Japan, and the Midwestern one she settled into as an adult. Mori combines personal experiences and memories to offer insight on the culture of modern-day Japan. The memoir is divided into twelve different chapters, each focused on one element of culture (language, family, rituals), and each are vivid and fascinating, but all of them combine to form an inspiring piece of literature.
    One of the novel's main themes is the influence of language (note the title of the book). The first chapter focuses on the difference in style between Japanese language and Midwestern language, and the effects of each. Mori elaborates between the different occasions certain words and tones are permitted in, and the restriction that she feels in having to conform to those rules. Then, all throughout the rest of the novel, language plays a role in the understanding of the other cultural elements. In "Bodies," for example, Mori writes, "My friends and I had no language to speak about sex, in or out of the biology class" (Mori 111). Each chapter adds another layer of insight to the previous ones.
    The benefit of reading a memoir about culture rather than a strict textbook is that personal experience gives the reader something to relate to. Mori does a great job of this, relating her memories of growing up in Japan to her friends' memories of growing up in the Midwest. However, the disadvantage to reading one author's point of view is that it leads to bias. Mori makes clear that her childhood in Japan was not a pleasant one, and that her experience does not necessarily account for all of Japanese culture. Her pained memories lead to an almost skewed picture of Japan; one of unhappiness and societal disorder.
    This novel is great for those who are interested in learning about the culture of Japan. It offers a good beginning resource for those who have no prior knowledge. However, for those who study culture pedagogically, this book is too light for reading. For those who have finished this book and are interested in some of Mori's fiction novels (also based on her experiences growing up in Japan), try her New York Times bestselling book, Shizuko's Daughter.
    Overall, I give this novel four stars out of five. And admiral piece of literature for an author with an honest voice.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2008

    Interesting Book

    I thought this book was interesting to read. It's a little depressing though and unfortunately it does not leave a positive impression on Japanese culture. But then again the author had a sad childhood, so one can't expect something cheery and positive. There were a few deep points that the author tried to communicate which I was able to appreciate, but not fully - but then again that was because of my deficiencies in appreciating the deeper aspects of literature and not the author's fault. I think its a good book, but I would recommend also reading other books along with this to get a view of Japanese culture from other perspectives as well. Most of the other books I read gave positive perspectives of Japanese culture and this was my first one to see a darker side to things - it's a good balance, because in reality most, if not all cultures have a positive and negative side to things, so reading only the positive aspects of things won't really give you a balanced view. So, I recommend this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2006

    Utterly fascinating.

    Mori's 'Polite Lies' is both well-written and more than a little fascinating. At times you feel like laughing at some of the experiences she puts forth, while at other times you feel utterly horrified. Far from sensualizing her experiences, she relates them with the understanding of someone intimately aquainted with them without catching you up in a prolonged reaction or a detailed analysis. She provides background information and the details, and allows the reader to draw his or her own conclusions. This is truly a work of genius.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2005

    Recommended if you have lived in Japan

    Having lived in Japan 4 separate times, I loved returning because things worked somehow and at the same time confused me as to how they worked. Mori by sharing her personal experiences -- through her mother's suicide, her stepmother's evil intent, her transition to life in Green Bay, her divorce to her husband, and more -- offers a lot of insight into the thinking that makes Japan's culture such a magnetic source of confusion for me. Also, coming from the Chicago area, I learn from Mori's comparison of her understanding of Midwestern Green Bay culture and Kansai Japanese culture. It's a comparison that other sociological books and more quantative readings fail at. In terms of writing quality, maybe I'd give it 4 stars, but the way Kyoko Mori shares so much personally, this open honestness encouraged me to give it 5 stars. This book might also be useful for couples with a Japanese or Japanese-American partner.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2004

    more like an essay than a memoir

    This book read more like an essay than a memoir. The author goes into too much description, so the story tends to drag at many points.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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