Sunday, January 11, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: How to Be an American Housewife

I was looking for books to read in the new year. I was making a list. I found this on my bookshelf: How to Be an American Housewife; sounds intriguing. When did I buy this? How long has it been sitting on my bookshelf?

The first couple chapters were engaging, funny, even sad at times. I was stepping back in time.

I absorbed it rather quickly and it has stayed with me long after I've read the last page.

Shoko was a beautiful Japanese woman with the world at her feet. Life interrupted, war came to her country. She married an American GI and came to live in America to seek a new life... better opportunities.

Before each chapter is an excerpt from a handbook on how to assimilate into American culture, how to raise kids, how to immaculately clean your house.

This is my favorite excerpt:

"An important criterion in choosing your American mate is his blood type. Military men often wear identifying necklaces, 'dog tags,' which bear the blood type..."

"AB - The worst kind. They do whatever they want whenever they want. They make horrible husbands. "

"B - very practical, but dull."

THAT.CRACKED.ME.UP!!!

Growing up as an immigrant myself, I related well with Shoko and her daughter, Sue. My family always had absurdities about relationships such as these.


Other quotes from the story itself:

Sue was helping Shoko in the kitchen and came across the book: How to Be an American Housewife.

"For the first years of my marriage, it had been my handbook, my guide to doing everything. Rules for living. American style. Sometimes it was right, and sometimes it was not. Sometimes I liked it, and sometimes I didn't. But that was just like life. You don't always get to do what you want, do you?"

I wish I got a handbook like this when I moved to America. I wished my MOM got a handbook. She would dress me in a yellow t-shirt with red corduroy pants. When I wore skirts, I had these long most unfortunate socks all the way past my knee and she would put a rubber band right below the knee and fold over socks. Oh my word... kids are merciless.

"Helena was my do-over daughter. With her, I had the patience to do everything I should have done with Sue. Cook. Teach about Japan. Hugging. I would have even taught her the language, if I hadn't been certain I would mess it up. She needed to learn proper dialect, not what we used out in the country."

And that stabbed me in the heart. 

I don't talk much about this, but when my parents were in the process of getting a divorce, I knew there was no pain like that in the world. I was 11 or so. I went on the bus on my way to school one day crying as an older student from the high school consoled me. Then, I was in college and my dad got married. He didn't tell me. I guess I wasn't that important to share this news. I was so devastated. I thought that this must be the worst pain. Nothing else could be this bad. I would wake up each day and just want to end it all. And then... he had another daughter. The replacement. I was the practice child. The prototype. The cast off. He would do better with this one. He would do right by her. And that my friends is the worst most insufferable pain. 

Sue goes back to Japan to reconcile on behalf of her ailing mother. 

"Helena and I were not athletes or superstars, we were us. And that was enough." 

I hope I get to feel like that one day... enough. 

I think this was an outstanding tribute to the author's mother. What a great way to honor her memory! It brought healing to my heart and I can't tell you how wonderful it is to read this type of literature and feel... KNOWN. 



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