Where the Body Meets Memory: An Odyssey of Race, Sexuality and Identity

Overview

In Turning Japanese, poet David Mura chronicled a year in Japan in which his sense of identity as a Japanese American was transformed. In Where the Body Meets Memory, Mura focuses on his experience growing up Japanese American in a country which interned both his parents during World War II, simply because of their race. Interweaving his own experience with that of his family and of other sansei-third generation Japanese Americans-Mura reveals how being a "model minority" has resulted in a loss of heritage and ...
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Where the Body Meets Memory: An Odyssey of Race, Sexuality and Identity

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Overview

In Turning Japanese, poet David Mura chronicled a year in Japan in which his sense of identity as a Japanese American was transformed. In Where the Body Meets Memory, Mura focuses on his experience growing up Japanese American in a country which interned both his parents during World War II, simply because of their race. Interweaving his own experience with that of his family and of other sansei-third generation Japanese Americans-Mura reveals how being a "model minority" has resulted in a loss of heritage and wholeness for generations of Japanese Americans.

In vivid and searingly honest prose, Mura goes on to suggest how the shame of internment affected his sense of sexuality, leading him to face troubling questions about desire and race: an interracial marriage, compulsive adultery, and an addiction to pornography which equates beauty with whiteness. Using his own experience as a measure of racial and sexual grief, Mura illustrates how the connections between race and desire are rarely discussed, how certain taboos continue to haunt this country's understanding of itself. Ultimately, Mura faces the most difficult legacy of miscegenation: raising children in a world which refuses to recognize and honor its racial diversity.

Intimate and lyrically stunning, Where the Body Meets Memory is a personal journey out of the self and into America's racial and sexual psyche.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A third-generation Japanese American, Mura ascribes his promiscuousness, addiction to pornography and marital problems to race discrimination. In a jumble of diary excerpts, recollected conversations with his therapist, wife, friends and family, he muses on his parents' efforts to become mainstream Americans, the lasting effects of their humiliating internment during WWII and his own rebellion and rage against culture barriers. The husband of a white woman, Mura also discusses the destructive attitudes of white Americans towards interracial marriages. Although this frank account of his difficulties gives circumstantial evidence of the effects of racial discrimination on Japanese families and individuals, the link is somewhat weakened by the fact that many of the very problems he attributes to it-e.g., rebellion against parents, infidelity-are common in all groups; and the disordered nature of Mura's discourse lacks the impressive style of his acclaimed earlier work, Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei. (May)
Library Journal
Mura Turning Japanese, LJ 2/1/91 here explores how his race, his upbringing, and American culture have affected his self-understanding and his sexuality. Weaving his memories of growing up with the lives of his paternal grandfather and his father, he creates a brutally honest examination of his search for a place in a sometimes racially hostile society. Mura blames the Japanese racial shame wrought by the internment experience of World War II for his feelings of isolation while growing up and for his sexual behavior: his attraction only to white women, interracial marriage, promiscuity, and obsessive use of pornography. Yet not all sansei third-generation Japanese Americans responded as he did. His intimate exploration of his sexuality and its accompanying drug use will make some readers uncomfortable, but his story demonstrates that there is no monolithic "Japanese American experience" and that the "model minority" stereotype is fallacious. Recommended for public libraries.-Katharine L. Kan, Hawaii State Lib., Honolulu
Kirkus Reviews
More tediously self-absorbed reflections on the emotional torments of a lost-and-found soul from the author of Turning Japanese (1991).

A third-generation Japanese-American (sansei) who remains vaguely discontented with his heritage, albeit endlessly fascinated by his place (or lack thereof) in contemporary US society, Mura (who turns 44 this year) offers a discontinuous memoir that draws on the lives of those close to him as well as his own experiences. The son of nisei parents who were interned during WW II, the author grew up in comfortable circumstances in suburban Chicago. After earning a degree from Grinnell, he went on to graduate school at the University of Minnesota. Mura eventually settled in the Twin Cities, married the woman with whom he had lived since college, and, with some success, pursued a writing career. By the author's account, however, getting from then to now has been a tortuous, tortured business. Along his wayward way, Mura abused drugs, was frequently unfaithful to his wife (a physician specializing in pediatric oncology), vocally challenged his go-getting father's desire to assimilate, and became addicted to pornography. In the name of an unsparing search for truth, he shares with readers the sordid details of one-night stands, his lust for hard-core smut, bouts of masturbation, constant doubts about his own sexual appeal (in particular, to non-Asian women), and other causes of postadolescent angst. At length, fatherhood and therapy jolted Mura into a state approaching adulthood. Even so, he has resolved to use poetry and prose "to make central what is marginal, to re-create and reveal what others say should not be spoken of."

Mura comes nowhere near his stated objective in the flights of fancy he has patched together, and the egocentric text is remarkable only for its modest shock value.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385471848
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/28/1997
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,176,630
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Table of Contents

Prologue: Silences 1
A Nisei Daughter 21
All-American Boy 51
A Nisei Father 97
The Descent 131
Jinnosuke's Biwa 173
Bittersweet 183
The Internment of Desire 211
Acknowledgments 271
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