Healing Family

Overview

Born 33 years ago with a brain deformity, Hikari Oe, son of Kenzaburo Oe, Nobel Prize Laureate for Literature, has, despite autism and other handicaps, become an established composer with two successful CDs to his credit. In this moving, uplifting book, Kenzaburo writes about life with his brain-damaged son, celebrating the victories which Hikari has won through his gift for music. 17 illustrations.
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Overview

Born 33 years ago with a brain deformity, Hikari Oe, son of Kenzaburo Oe, Nobel Prize Laureate for Literature, has, despite autism and other handicaps, become an established composer with two successful CDs to his credit. In this moving, uplifting book, Kenzaburo writes about life with his brain-damaged son, celebrating the victories which Hikari has won through his gift for music. 17 illustrations.
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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Review
A lovely book, low-key, avoiding easy sentimentality, honest to a fault.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Oe sets out here to document the life and contribution to the family of his son, Hikari, born in 1963 with a major malformation of his brain. Successfully operated on but left with residual brain damage, Hikari, who needs constant supervision, became a talented composer and irreplaceable focal point of his father's creativity. Despite its positive and loving message, this is a sad book, recounting the struggles of daily life with a brain-damaged child, the parents' frustrations and the acute feelings of failure and inadequacy that accompany them. Even as it attempts its honorable task, it has all the earmarks of a work knitted together from random and occasional pieces dealing with an important and moving subject: it frequently loses focus and drifts off down side tracks (discussion of differences among Japanese characters; forgetting money on an overseas trip). To make matters worse, the translation is awkward and stilted in a way that makes the reader grope for the voice of a writer whose brilliant fiction and stories won him the Nobel Prize for Literature. Students of Oe, familiar with his other works, may find significant insights here, but this offering will not likely be the book to win him fresh admirers. 50,000 first printing; author tour. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Oe, winner of the 1994 Nobel Prize for literature, is best known to American readers for A Personal Matter (1970), The Silent City (Kodansha, 1994), and An Echo of Heaven (LJ 4/1/96). In his latest nonfiction work, Oe tells of his experiences for the last 33 years raising his brain-damaged son, Hikari, whom doctors had predicted would never be more than a vegetable. Despite Hikari's autism and frequent seizures, Oe and his wife gave him a nurturing environment that encouraged Hikari to become a contributing member of the family and to compose the music for two successful CDs. Oe writes with a self-effacing humility and humor that makes light of the considerable difficulties encountered in raising a handicapped child; he focuses instead on the joys and triumphs. His evident pride in Hikari's accomplishments shines throughout but especially when he discusses Hikari's musical interest and ability. Through glimpses into the family's life since Hikari's birth, we see a portrait emerging of how a severely handicapped person can transform the lives of those who care for him. This book affirms belief in the power of the family.Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9784770020482
  • Publisher: Kodansha International
  • Publication date: 11/28/1996
  • Language: Japanese
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.57 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Read an Excerpt

It takes a certain amount of courage--a sad kind of courage, perhaps--to admit that there have been (and in fact still are) moments when we as a family (and I in particular) have been unable to control our anger with Hikari. It is an anger that I imagine isn't unlike that felt on occasion by doctors and nurses toward their patients, or by physio- and psychotherapists toward theirs--a realization that conjures up for me an image of myself, on a day in the not too distant future, as a crotchety old patient making trouble for my family and helpers and being treated accordingly by them.

I think back to an incident that occurred when Hikari was about five or six years old. At the time he was larger and heavier than the average child of his age, but his mental development was perhaps no more than that of a three-year-old. When we took him out for walks, he would choose the most inopportune time and place to collapse in a heap or rush off in whatever direction caught his fancy, nearly dislocating the shoulder of the person holding his hand. On the day in question, I had set out with Hikari for a department store in Shibuya. In retrospect, I suppose the excursion may have been the result of some minor argument with my wife, which might explain why it was just the two of us. At any rate, the department store where we went to do our shopping consisted of an old and a newer building, connected on one of the upper floors by a passage; and it was while we were making our way through the sports section in the old building that Hikari decided to make yet another of his frequent, forceful changes in direction. Though the shock was enough to draw a groan from me, I managed to keep my composure and explain to him that we were going where I said we were going. Still, Hikari continued to pull, determined to follow his own instincts.

I can remember even now the strange sense of disembodiment I felt at that moment, as if I were being plucked right out of reality itself, which I assume is one of the side effects of sudden anger. In any case, for some reason I simply let go of Hikari's hand and went straight to the new building to do the shopping I'd come to do. Then I spent a few minutes looking over the latest offerings in the book section. Finally, I made my way back to where I had left him, but naturally there was no sign of the boy. It was only then that I panicked. I ran off to report a lost child, and almost immediately the loudspeaker began broadcasting his name and description; but I knew that even if he did hear the announcement, Hikari would either have no idea that he was lost or no way of doing anything about it. I started to search the floor where I'd left him in both the old and new buildings; then I searched the floors above and below. I had wandered through the store for nearly two hours when I stopped to rest on the landing of the staircase in the new building. It was while I was thinking about the call I would have to make to my wife, staring vacantly out the foggy window, that I spotted him: a short, oddly bent figure, not unlike a dog, making its way slowly but steadily up the stairs of the old building. I dashed to the floor with the connecting passage, and on my way down the opposite side I found him, scrambling along in his overalls, red wool cap pulled down around his ears. His pudgy cheeks were flushed from the exertion, but otherwise his face betrayed no unusual emotion. He barely glanced in my direction. Still, that afternoon as we rode home on the train he held tight to my hand.

Since that day I have often imagined the frightening consequences we might have had to face: we might simply have lost him for good, or he could have fallen down the stairs, or had his hands crushed as he tried to crawl onto an escalator. Would I ever have been able to see myself as anything other than a criminally negligent father who had sent his son toddling off to his fate? In all likelihood, this one momentary lapse would have meant the end of my life with my family. And even now, because of this experience, whenever I see an article of the sort that appears frequently in the newspapers these days about some young mother dropping her baby on the floor to stop it crying, I can never bring myself to condemn these inexperienced, unfortunate people; instead, I identify with them, imagine myself in their shoes, feel their torment. I have no doubt that there are instinctive emotions that allow us to raise our children lovingly and well; but there is also instinct involved in that sudden, inexplicable anger one can feel toward a baby crying in the night....
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