Talking to High Monks in the Snow: An Asian American Odyssey

Lydia Y. Minatoya, Author HarperCollins Publishers $20 (269p) ISBN 978-0-06-016809-4
In this often delightful memoir of a Japanese American woman's youth in upstate New York, caught between her immigrant parents' culture and her own American experience, two sketches in particular are most revealing. Minatoya's father, a research scientist long employed by the same firm, is nearing retirement when he discovers he has been paid the same wages as his lab assistant. His two outraged daughters, perceiving racial discrimination, cry out: ``Sue them blind!'' But his Japanese dignity is at stake; besides, he has loved his work and was grateful for the chance to do it, and he feels strong loyalty to his employers. On the other hand, the daughters are entranced when their mother--a clothes designer and seamstress proud to have a career--plucks ancient tunes on her okoto for them, like a traditional Japanese woman. Minatoya is at her lyrical best with such family scenes, and there is both humor and pathos in her account of a visit to relatives in Japan, where she is as much an outsider as she is at home in the U.S. But when she focuses on her American self, her insights falter. The details of a disastrous first teaching job in Boston are sketchy, and her teaching adventures in Okinawa and China are richer in travelogue color than in personal revelations. Despite such weakn e sses, however, the book's charms are many. Author tour. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1992
Release date: 01/01/1992
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-06-092372-3
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