Songs My Mother Taught Me

Songs My Mother Taught Me

15.16 18.95

Wakako Yamauchi
Stories, Plays, and Memoir

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Paperback Edition
ISBN: 9781558610866
Publication Date: 09-01-1994

Introduction by Garrett Hongo
Afterword by Valerie Mine

Songs My Mother Taught Me is the first collection of literature by Wakako Yamauchi. In her eloquent prose, Yamauchi, a Nisei (second-generation Japanese American) illuminates the neglected social and emotional history of two generations of Japanese in the United States, recalling the harsh lives of rural immigrants, tenant farmers, and itinerant laborers. Informed by her own family history, her stories and plays recreate the wartime relocation of Japanese Americans and their postwar return to urban centers, capturing their ambivalent longings for the prewar family and culture of Japan. Years later, she recalls very young Mexican immigrants hired in as cheap labor in southern California who view a middle-aged Japanese woman as "the American", and ask her for advice—an irony almost too daunting for her to bear as she considers the past.

Without bitterness, and often with quiet humor, Yamauchi's human-sized dramas open into larger social histories and the great narrative myths of culture. Like Toshio Mori and Hisaye Yamamoto, Yamauchi is a pioneer of Asian American literature.

"Wakako Yamauchi is resplendent heroine to generations of Asian Americans, whose hearts she knows. She sustains our lives as readers and theatergoers. Her impact on story and the stage is so strong it is amazing, the subtle feelings and states of mind she gives us. That her work has been collected at last befits her stature as a classic." —Maxine Hong Kingston, author of The Woman Warrior

"Wakako Yamauchi's stories are wonderful! She is a superb master of the wistful and the poignant. Her themes—love unconsummated, opportunities missed, 'songs of longing' and resignation, of restraint and its psychic cost, of despair and renewal of hope—are handled with consummate skill, presented with beauty and grace. Their resonance and significance—as with all lasting literature—extend to all people, everywhere. Wakako Yamauchi is one of our classic authors." —Amy Ling, editor of Visions of America