Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

How to Be an American Housewife

Posted by nliakos on March 16, 2013

by Margaret Dilloway (Berkeley 2010)

Immediately after World War II, Japan is in tatters, and many Japanese take any opportunity to escape–among them young women who married American soldiers. Margaret Dilloway’s mother was one such woman, and so is the protagonist of this novel, Shoko. Shoko is beautiful, bright, and talented, but she risks her family’s good name by becoming involved with an Eta, a charming young man who belongs to a kind of untouchable caste. Shoko’s parents urge her to find an American GI to marry. She dates some soldiers, brings her father their photographs, and lets him select one. Then she asks the chosen one to marry her. He is willing, and she leaves Japan for the United States, already pregnant with her son Mike. Years later, she longs to return to Japan to make peace with her brother, from whom she has been alienated all those years, but a bad heart prevents her from traveling. She convinces her daughter Suiko (Sue) to make the trip for her, and Sue takes along her own daughter, 12-year-old Helena.  Sue actually finds Shoko’s brother Taro, who has become a Konkokyo priest, like their father. And she discovers in herself a love for her mother’s culture that she did not anticipate.

Shoko describes her relationships with her husband and children in the first part of the book, as she recounts the story of her first love, how she met and married her husband Charlie, and how she learned to survive in America.

In the second part of the book, Sue narrates the story of her and Helena’s trip to Japan to find her uncle.

It’s a great story and a fast read. I think high intermediate to advanced English language learners would enjoy it, especially if they are Japanese.

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One Response to “How to Be an American Housewife”

  1. I know some intermediate to advanced English learners—who are Japanese. I will forward your review of this book to them. It sounds very interesting!

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