By Milton Murayama
Setting & details: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Authenticity of Japanese characters & dialogue: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Translation quality: N/A
Entertainment value: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
My recommendation: Told by a Japanese-American boy caught between cultures, this entertaining and poignant memoir spotlights the traditions and ways of thinking (both the sublime and the ridiculous) that Japanese emigrants take with them wherever they go.
“All I Asking For Is My Body” is the autobiographical tale of a boy growing up in a 1930s Hawaiian sugar cane workers’ camp, and although it takes place on American soil, it reveals more about Japanese culture and the Japanese way of thinking than most books that take place in Japan.
If you don’t read this for the infuriating, hilarious and inexplicable bits of Japanese culture that thrived in the Hawaiian cane camps of the 1930s, read it for a glimpse of the old Hawaii that existed before the islands became the tourist nirvana they are today.
What we take with us when we leave our homes is a potent sign of what we hold most dear. “All I Asking For Is My Body” explores how immigrants rely on their traditions to make a strange place more welcoming, but also how great virtues from the old world can have a dark side in the new one. Filial piety can become crushing obligation, and refusing to adapt the old ways to a changed situation can spell doom instead of helping the next generation to thrive.
This memoir is a rare glimpse into the immigrant experience from a uniquely Japanese perspective, and even though it’s a slim little book, it speaks volumes to what it means to be Japanese, anywhere in the world.
You can get it right now from your favorite bookseller, or check out the May-June Japanagram to see if you won a copy! All subscribers are automatically entered to win—if you’re not among them yet, click this button to subscribe, and be automatically signed up to enter.
How I pick the book giveaway winners: On the last day of each month, I load all the email addresses of Japanagram subscribers into a random name picker on the Web and ask it to choose subscribers to match however many books I’m giving away that month. Then I publish the emails in the next day’s Japanagram (all emails obscured in a way so only the subscriber will be able to recognize it as their own, of course!)
The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon
“A fascinating mix of history and mystery.” —Booklist
Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had