Songs My Mother Taught Me: Stories, Plays, and Memoir

Overview

   Songs My Mother Taught Me is the first collection of literature by this mature and accomplished writer. In her eloquent prose, Yamauchi, a Nisei (second-generation Japanese American) illuminates the neglected social and emotional history of two generations of Japanese in the United States, recalling the harsh lives of rural immigrants, tenant farmers, and itinerant laborers. Informed by her own family history, her stories and plays recreate the wartime relocation of Japanese Americans and their ...

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Overview

   Songs My Mother Taught Me is the first collection of literature by this mature and accomplished writer. In her eloquent prose, Yamauchi, a Nisei (second-generation Japanese American) illuminates the neglected social and emotional history of two generations of Japanese in the United States, recalling the harsh lives of rural immigrants, tenant farmers, and itinerant laborers. Informed by her own family history, her stories and plays recreate the wartime relocation of Japanese Americans and their postwar return to urban centers. She captures their ambivalent longings for the prewar family and culture of Japan. She also writes more recently of very young Mexican immigrants hired in as cheap labor in southern California who view a middle-aged Japanese woman as "the American", and ask her for advice. The irony is almost too daunting for her to bear, as she thinks about the past.

   Without bitterness, and often with quiet humor, Yamauchi's human-sized dramas open into larger social histories and the great narrative myths of culture. Like Toshio Mori and Hisaye Yamamoto, Yamauchi is a pioneer of Asian-American literature.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Although Yamauchi's works have previously appeared in anthologies, admirers of her lyrical short stories will welcome this first collection of her work. Yamauchi, a second-generation Japanese American, or nisei , writes about the wrenching experiences of Japanese (particularly women) in the United States--of families coping with the relocation to internment centers during WW II; of the desire for acceptance into American society and the concurrent yearnings for the mother country. The stories begin with the mundane, with the goings-on in her own backyard, but slowly reveal the immense landscape beyond--plains that ripple with the larger dramas of family and society. Though informed by her own experiences, Yamauchi's heroines might be anyone familiar with missed opportunities and the subsequent resignation to loss. Her compassionate voice is neither pitying nor sad; these women and their families survive, carrying seeds of hope within themselves. In ``Shirley Temple, Hotcha-cha,'' a Shirley Temple doll, a mother's gift to her daughter, is a resilient stand-in for the daughter who must endure the war and later, her husband's desertion. ``I bought her a new wig and made a fancy nylon dress for her. She smiles at me. Her lips are cracked, she's a bit sallow, the luster is gone from her blue eyes. She's not what she used to be. But she's been around for a long time now.'' A general audience may find two plays based on stories in the collection distracting but they and the lengthy foreword by Hongo and afterword by Valerie Miner will be of value to scholars. First serial to Ms. (July)
School Library Journal
When the English-Japanese weekly Los Angeles Rafu Shimpo began running her stories in 1960, Yamauchi became one of the first Asian American writers to be published. She writes of the immigrant experience, of the hard lives of the Japanese, particularly the women, struggling to make a home in a foreign and inhospitable land. As a young woman, Yamauchi, who was born in the United States to Japanese parents, was among the Japanese Americans interred in relocation camps during World War II. Many of her stories grow out of this experience. For this collection, editor Hongo has gathered a representative selection of Yamauchi's writings, including two plays (adapted from earlier stories also included) and more recent recollections. Yamauchi writes of bleak times without bitterness, and the reader cannot help but empathize with her characters. Warmly recommended for Asian American and women's studies collections and for larger fiction collections.-Debbie Bogenschutz, Cincinnati Technical Coll.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781558610866
  • Publisher: Feminist Press at CUNY, The
  • Publication date: 6/1/1994
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,353,007
  • Product dimensions: 6.01 (w) x 8.96 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
And the Soul Shall Dance 19
In Heaven and Earth 25
Songs My Mother Taught Me 32
The Boatmen on Toneh River 41
That Was All 46
The Music Lessons 51
The Sensei 101
Shirley Temple, Hotcha-cha 109
The Handkerchief 122
Charted Lives 127
The Coward 137
Maybe 146
And the Soul Shall Dance 153
Makapuu Bay 211
A Veteran of Foreign Wars 219
Old Times, Old Stories 224
So What; Who Cares? 231
Otoko 237
Afterword 245
Publications Chronology 255
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