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Beacon Hill Boys

Beacon Hill Boys

by Ken Mochizuki

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The long-awaited first novel about growing up Asian American by award-winning author Ken Mochizuki, now in paperback

Like other Japanese American families in the Beacon Hill area of Seattle, 16-year-old Dan Inagaki's parents expect him to be an example of the "model minority." But unlike Dan's older brother, with his 4.0 GPA and Ivy League scholarship, Dan is


The long-awaited first novel about growing up Asian American by award-winning author Ken Mochizuki, now in paperback

Like other Japanese American families in the Beacon Hill area of Seattle, 16-year-old Dan Inagaki's parents expect him to be an example of the "model minority." But unlike Dan's older brother, with his 4.0 GPA and Ivy League scholarship, Dan is tired of being called "Oriental" by his teachers, and sick of feeling invisible; Dan's growing self-hatred threatens his struggle to claim an identity. Sharing his anger and confusion are his best friends, Jerry Ito, Eddie Kanagae, and Frank Ishimoto, and together these Beacon Hill Boys fall into a spiral of rebellion that is all too all-American.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Set in Seattle's Beacon Hill area in 1972, Mochizuki's (Baseball Saved Us) provocative novel focuses on four Japanese-American friends, all high school juniors. The narrator, Dan Inagaki, and his parents seem locked onto a collision course. His parents can't understand why Dan isn't more like his clean-cut older brother, Brad, a star athlete and straight-A student headed for Stanford; Dan and his friends think Brad is a "Banana" ("yellow on the outside, white on the inside"). For his part, Dan can't understand why his parents refuse to discuss their past, particularly the Japanese-American internment camps, and why they expect him to conform and not make trouble (one of his father's favorite proverbs is "The nail that sticks up the highest gets hit the hardest"). But where Dan's friend Eddie rebels by trying to act "black" and another friend by being "The Bad Boy," Dan earns a high profile by lobbying (successfully) for the creation of a comparative American cultures class and for some books in the school library "to teach history from [another] point of view." Mochizuki evokes the period well-Dan and his peers worry about the Vietnam War; a young Filipino teacher tells Dan, "What you're doing is really right on." While the novel will be of particular interest to readers who share Dan's ethnic and cultural heritage, the author's understanding of teen conflicts and the need to forge an individual identity should resonate with a broader audience. Ages 14-up. (Nov.)
Children's Literature
It is 1972, and Dan Inagaki is a high school junior in the Beacon Hill section of Seattle, a struggling neighborhood in the shadow of the Boeing plant. His school is a melting pot—one-third white, one-third black, and one-third Asian. The Black Power movement is gaining steam, but the Japanese kids are busy trying not to make waves, to succeed as their parents expect. Dan is the second child of three and constantly hears how he doesn't measure up to his perfect older brother Brad. His friends are a variety of similar misfits. Dan asks questions about things his parents aren't ready to answer. What was life like in the camps? What did dad do in the war? Asking questions sets Dan apart at school as well. The pace of the book is fairly slow, with many chapters a repetition of "the boys go out, some of them dabble in drugs, Dan is introspective." It extends over the course of one academic year as we follow Dan developing his own identity, reconciling with his parents and dreaming about the most popular girl in school. Despite the problem with pacing, the novel offers a glimpse into the struggles of second and third generation Japanese immigrants caught between the previous generation and American culture. 2002, Scholastic, Judy Rowen
Sixteen-year-old Dan Inagaki feels "less than" when compared to his older brother, Brad, an outstanding athlete and honor student with a beautiful white girlfriend. Dan and his friends do not really fit in, neither at Hoover High School in south Seattle nor at home. Dan wants to know about his heritage, but when he asks his parents about the internment camps or what his dad did during World War II, he is told Shikataganai-"That's the way it goes and nobody can do a dang thing about it." In a high school that is by thirds black, white, and Asian, the history teacher responds, "I don't care about any Japanese history. We only teach American history around here." As Dan sees other injustices, he approaches the principal, and a new class is created, Comparative American Culture. A transformation begins that brings Dan closer to himself and therefore closer to his friends and family. Mochizuki presents voices of American culture that are rarely heard. He approaches the problem on three levels-at school with the administration, at home with the older generation, and within Dan through his search for identity. Although the issues might be different, the lack of communication, both needed and feared by teens, is paralleled in most readers' experiences. Mochizuki knows that cultural identity can exist without conflict through nurtured communication and acknowledged validation. Ignorance and kept secrets separate humankind. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2002, Scholastic, 208p, Bott
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-As a second-generation Japanese-American during the early 1970s, Dan Inagaki wears his teen spirit like a hair shirt. He is hungry for personal and cultural identity within the minority-rich mix of his Seattle high school. He craves to understand and lay claim to past hardships that his parents experienced but won't discuss. His day-to-day high school life is a series of half-hearted beginnings that fall flat. Filled with discontent, Dan hangs with a group of on-the-fringe kids who struggle with their families' murky place in society. His father's silence about the internment camps only piques his curiosity. Meanwhile, the head of the history department states, "I don't care about any Japanese history. We only teach American history around here." Yet when the Black Student Union begins its lobbying efforts, a Band-Aid Comparative American cultures class is added to the curriculum. Instead of rallying the troops, Dan seems to shut down and is confused by his parents' attempts at becoming an "All American" family. A rambling plot diminishes the effect of an otherwise authentic portrayal. Events are slow going, indicative of the lifestyle of a floundering '70s teen. After all the troubles of Dan's daily life, the ending is too neat and tidy. His personal revelations are a fizzle, leaving him (and readers) still hungry for stories from his father's day.-Alison Follos, North Country School, Lake Placid, NY Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Dan Inagaki is tired of being labeled "Oriental" and equally tired of the pressure from his parents to be the perfect Japanese-American son. Dan’s pals Eddie, Frank, and Jerry all have their own takes on coping with the prejudices and stereotypes within and outside their community in 1970s Seattle. The mixture of races at Beacon Hill High is all in that slow move to political consciousness that epitomized the decade, but Dan feels he and his friends are barely waking up. With the example of "black power" he tries to take some actions for change. Mochizuki (Passage to Freedom, not reviewed, etc.) makes the time period vivid with mentions of the music, drugs, hair styles, clothing, and, of course, the Vietnam War. Successful at portraying the boy’s impatience with their labels, Dan is less successfully shown as beginning his revolt against the assumptions of those around him. Throughout, he longs for the attention of Janet, whose beauty and style make her beyond reach, especially given his inarticulate longings. Despite her hints of being interested and the flirtatiousness of others, sex barely exists in the story. The flavor is highly autobiographical, and indeed, Mochizuki grew up in Seattle during this time period, and has commented on his own struggle with prejudice. Perhaps it is the veil of fiction that makes this episodic narrative seem distant from the character’s inner turmoil. On the other hand, it is perhaps Mochizuki’s closeness to the people and events that makes it seem more of a recitation of painful memories that even time and distance haven’t softened. Beginning and ending with a family dinner at a Japanese restaurant, the story offers little closure for the charactersbeyond Dan’s own reflections of hope for change. Lifelike and true to that most befuddling of times. (Fiction. YA)

Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
4.13(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.58(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

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