A mother-daughter story about the strong pull of tradition, and the lure and cost of breaking free of it.
When Shoko decided to marry an American GI and leave Japan, she had her parents’ blessing, her brother’s scorn, and a gift from her husband-a book on how to be a proper American housewife.
As she crossed the ocean to America, Shoko also brought with her a secret she would need to keep her entire life…
Half a century later, Shoko’s plans to finally return to Japan and reconcile with her brother are derailed by illness. In her place, she sends her grown American daughter, Sue, a divorced single mother whose own life isn’t what she hoped for. As Sue takes in Japan, with all its beauty and contradictions, she discovers another side to her mother and returns to America unexpectedly changed and irrevocably touched.
This is the eighth book I read from my post Credit Where Credit’s Due. I read about How To Be An American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway from Ionia at Readful Things Blog. You can read her thoughts on the book here.
How To Be An American Housewife is the intertwined stories of Shoko and her daughter Sue. Shoko, a native Japanese, marries Charlie, a medical officer in the navy, while he is stationed in Japan. Her story is not just about her childhood but also the state in which she leaves her family in Japan and how she tries to assimilate into American culture. Sue’s story is the result of the assimilation and how it affected her growing up and throughout the rest of her life.
This book was interesting and reads like a memoir. It almost felt like a non fiction at the beginning when it was just Shoko’s story compared to the last part of the book, which felt a little bit unbelievable.
I found it hard to connect with Shoko, more so as an adult than as a child. I still liked her though. I really liked Sue.
It was interesting to read about the two different cultures and how America seemed like such a step up from Japan (when really I don’t think it is).
Interspersed throughout are snippets of guidance, which come from the manual “How To Be An American Housewife”. This confused me as it’s the same title as the book. I assumed then that the snippets were from the original book, which was an actual guide, and this was a story of a Japanese woman who actually lived it out. However at the end I read that it was fictional and the author had made it up! Although i found it confusing at the beginning, it was quite a clever way to incorporate certain cultural information and differences.
Overall it was an interesting and informative read that gave insight into the two different cultures. It was steady paced and although it wasn’t gripping, kept you curious. A nice gentle read that I would recommend to those who like memoirs or historical fiction.