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

Wakako Yamauchi, Author, Valerie Miner, Editor, Garrett K. Hongo, Editor Feminist Press $35 (272p) ISBN 978-1-55861-085-9
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)
Reviewed on: 05/30/1994
Release date: 06/01/1994
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Paperback - 272 pages - 978-1-55861-086-6
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