When I wrote my novel, How To Be An American Housewife (Putnam Books), I wasn’t thinking of the experience of other hapas, just my own. The story deals with a Japanese mother who married an American after World War II, and her American daughter. It’s a mother-daughter story, told from the perspectives of both. Taking place in San Diego and in Japan, the book is about journeys, both physical and spiritual.
Though the plot is fiction, much of the book’s core is based on my experience with my own Japanese mother, and our admittedly strained relationship. I never knew any other person with a Japanese mother and an American father when I was growing up in San Diego. I felt isolated in my experiences and upbringing.
Since the book came out in August 2010, I’ve come to realize that I am not unique. I’ve gotten a lot of mail telling me that readers have had similar experiences with their Japanese mothers in America, with the ambivalence of belonging to neither American nor Japanese culture entirely, and with the importance of reconnecting with one’s roots. I’m proud and pleased that my personal narrative has lent a voice to the hapa culture. I wrote the book I wished I’d had as a teenager, about the relationship I would have loved to have had with my own mother, who passed away when I was 20.
Author of HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE
August 2010 Putnam Books
i read your book and I could relate to it so much. My mom didn’t teach us Japanese either because she didn’t want our speech to be weird. I had a speech problem with the letter R, And it seems we ate a lot of spaghetti too.
I love meeting half Japanese people but with the exception of a family I know with kids in their 50s now, my family has the oldest ones…my cousin was born in 1967… But anyway, I know loads of kids as I take my 1/4 daughter to Japanese playgroup…I love meeting half Japanese people as I feel this strange nod almost immediately…not sure why…
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I also have a Japanese mother and an American father and I am an only child who experienced many of the same things you did… Your story truly resonated with me. Thanks for sharing it.