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Songs My Mother Taught Me by Yamauchi and Hongo

Famous Japanese American female writer and a contemporary playwright Wakako Yamauchi is the author of Songs My Mother Taught Me. This book comprise country stories, the music lessons, city stories, and recollections, presenting short lyrical stories about American rural women-immigrants and factory workers who live in Japan and struggle to make a home in a foreign and inhospitable land. A tribe of wanderers leaves their home and looks for “Eden garden” in another continent. Immigrants crowd together for comfort and protection. The ultimate subject in Songs refers to the thwarted sexual and emotional relations between people who are confused about their roles in society and who are confused with each other (Yamauchi).

One of such stories is And the Soul Shall dance. This story was adapted by writer describing depressive and isolative life of immigrant families during the 1930s in the Imperial Valley of California. This is sad history of Emiko, who married to Oka, husband of her dead sister. Oka loves Emiko, he is a kind man, sometimes cruel and drinks a little. He is good father for her beloved daughter Kiyoko. This story is told and observed by Kiyoko’ friend, Masako and her parents, Hana and Murata. From the time Kiyoko emigrates from Japan, story acquires new aspect. She begins singing songs about challenging life, when she tried to drink some wine. Her songs symbolize longing, despair and patience, missed opportunities, unconsummated love, and renaissance of hope in returning to her homeland. Characters of this story are helpless victims, who squeezed between Japanese and American cultures. Resplendent heroine of Wakako Yamauchi’s story had made strong and amazing impact on a reader. Charactersdeal with the inner struggle of the ego realizing integration with its shadow archetype, therefore, making a necessary step to individuality or physic wholeness.

Otoko story, like And the Soul Shall dance filled with folkloric and popular love songs. Here reader is taught a little about emotional charity, an intellectual forgiveness for all the stoicism, and denial in Japanese community of prewar and relocation periods. The story is about moving testaments to human endurance, survival, and strength that are not depressing stories of victimization, since minority of American’s stories has been accused of being such. Individual and ambiguous Yamauchi’s polemical anthology can be interpreted in such ways as readily available, political coercive and invoking multiple concerns dealing with history, politics, ethnicity, and the roles of Japanese American women in society.

The Music Lessons gather images from the landscape and common life, combining them with narrative events and bind new recognizable emotions that are already established in a tradition that emerged in the lives of characters. There would be a barrier of ignorance, a tremendous sacrifice of emotional legacy, the sham of available history, far too intellectualized of merely factual without author’s work here. Stoical men and women are portrayed here, who long for tenderness that has the advantage of symbol, summary, and subjectivity of the last part of the twentieth century. A certain freedom from the beliefs of incompatible societies pushes beyond traditional Japanese beliefs in the sanctity of the family.

Songs My Mother Taught Me introduce an interesting collection of inspiring stories, plays, and was gathered and edited by a poet, essayist, novelist, and critic, Garret Hongo, and was published in 1994 by Feminist Press at the City University of New York. They present autobiographical essays of a social and emotional history of a certain community of two Japanese and American generations and past experience of author’s personal life and her family members who live in everyday post-war period. Almost all stories end with the predictable and happy outcome.

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