Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers

Overview

In her exuberant first novel, Lois-Ann Yamanaka tells the story of young Lovey Nariyoshi in Hilo, Hawai'i, on the big island of Hawai'i. Lovey's best friend is effeminate and endearing; her father at once loving and brutal; and her entire family is caught in a cultural gap between East and West. Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers embraces an array of familial issues as Lovey forges an identity of her own in a world where Japanese-Americans find no facsimile of themselves in pop culture or media, no trace of their ...
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Overview

In her exuberant first novel, Lois-Ann Yamanaka tells the story of young Lovey Nariyoshi in Hilo, Hawai'i, on the big island of Hawai'i. Lovey's best friend is effeminate and endearing; her father at once loving and brutal; and her entire family is caught in a cultural gap between East and West. Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers embraces an array of familial issues as Lovey forges an identity of her own in a world where Japanese-Americans find no facsimile of themselves in pop culture or media, no trace of their inner lives in the stories they read, and where the unpalatable is served on a plate of uncertainty. At once a bitingly funny satire of "white" happiness and a moving meditation on what is real, ugly at times, but true, Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers crackles with the language of pidgin - Hawaiian Creole - distinguishing one of the most vibrant new voices in contemporary culture.

In her "hilarious and heartbreaking" debut novel (Library Journal), Lois-Ann Yamanaka introduces the world to Lovey Nariyoshi, who comes of age in a working-class Japanese American family living in Hilo, Hawaii. Lovey longs to live in a "haole" (white) neighborhood and have "straight blond hair and long Miss America legs." 288 pp. Author tour. National ads. 35,000 print.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In a starred review PW called this Hawaiian coming-of-age story "fresh, distinctive" and "starkly realistic." (Apr.)
Library Journal
In her debut novel, the author presents the history of a Japanese American family living in Hawaii in the 1970s. The narrator, Lovey Nariyoshi, tells her story of growing up in a white ("haole") culture that keeps her family segregated. "No japs on TV," observes Lovey, "except Mrs. Livingston and Kay-to." This engrossing novel is strongly woven together, with chapters that swing from the heartfelt, childhood memories of Lovey's father, Hubert, to the fiendish behavior of her neighbors. Hawaiian Creole is dispersed effectively with English, further corroborating the fervent characters and their stories. By focusing decisively on her own distinct culture, the author successfully uncovers the damaging restrictions of American culture at large. This commanding novel should delight and haunt every reader. Unconditionally recommended for every library collection.-David A. Beron, Westbrook Coll. Lib., Portland, Me.
Alice Joyce
Poet Yamanaka has said, "With language rests culture," and in her vibrant first novel, she resoundingly affirms the dialect spoken within her own family and around Hawaii among plantation workers of various ethnic backgrounds. In choosing to tell her story in "Pidgin" --a commingled Hawaiian creole English--Yamanaka's touching coming-of-age tale emerges as an exceptional and expressive cultural document as well. Unfolding in a series of lucid, painfully funny vignettes, protagonist Lovey Nariyoshi's childhood is a long and continuous struggle to know her true self. While no role models exist for this young Japanese American girl growing up on the Big Island, family members and friends provide their own unique if at times burdensome support system. At once poignant and very funny, Yamanaka's voice demands to be heard.
Anne Whitehouse
The Hawaii of Lois-Ann Yamanaka's first novel is not the beautiful Eden we've come to expect in the literature of the Pacific Rim, but rather the setting of a hardscrabble life of an impoverished family as seen through the eyes of its eldest daughter, Lovey, as she grows from childhood to adolescence in the 1970s.

Lovey Nariyoshi is the descendant of Japanese agricultural workers who emigrated to Hawaii two generations earlier to work in the sugar cane plantations. Her dominant emotion is shame, which Yamanaka unearths in great detail. Even the very language Lovey speaks at home -- a pidgin English dialect that is the lingua franca of agricultural migrants and workers in the Pacific Islands -- is belittled by her teachers. Lovey experiences this contempt of her language as contempt for her. Because the novel is written in this dialect, the narrative itself becomes an act of defiance and liberation.

Lovey is also ashamed of her family's second-hand, make-do existence, which the other children ridicule. "Next Daddy going tell us eat dirt for dinner because good for our body and you going believe him," Lovey complains to her sister. "He take us to the dump and tell us thass treasures and you believe. Not me. I ain't being dumb no mo."

In vivid and often violent vignettes, Ms. Yamanaka describes Lovey's defeats and triumphs as she learns to celebrate her origins and her individuality. Yamanaka has created memorable characters who inspire Lovey: her open-hearted, coarse, and vulnerable father Hubert; her best friend Jerry; and angelic, tragic Crystal, Lovey's tutor whom she idolizes. This exotic coming-of-age novel culminates on a moving note of reconciliation. -- Salon

From the Publisher
"A rare book—Exuberant, fresh-voiced, rich, crazy and stabbing, comic and as true-toned as a crystal glass taped with a knife."—E. Annie Proulx

"Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers has power and charm. A bold and skillful combination of languages . . . [it] belongs on the shelf near Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye."—Literary Supplement Quarterly

"Yamanaka's voice is clear and distinct, capturing the people and events in sensitive and exciting language. . . . An important and memorable debut."—San Francisco Sunday Examiner & Chronicle

"Yamanaka, true to her poet's ear, communicates the luminous dignity of the language [pidgin]. . . . Because of Yamanaka's uncompromising skill at evoking the special flavor of Hawaiian life, Lovey, Jerry, Hubert—even no-good Larry—are some of the most vivid characters to spring off a page in recent memory."—Time Out New York

"Funky and vibrant . . . A coming-of-age tale of exceeding charm."—Elle

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374290207
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 1/1/1996
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.83 (w) x 6.95 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Lois-Ann Yamanaka has written a book of poetry, three prior works of fiction, and a young-adult novel. She has won a Lannan Literary Award and an American Book Award. She lives in Honolulu.

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