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Tea with Milk by Allen Say
Another Stunning Masterpiece By A Master
At home in San Francisco, May speaks Japanese and the family eats rice
and miso soup and drinks green tea. When she visits her friends homes,
she eats fried chicken and spaghetti. May plans someday to go to college
and live in an apartment of her own. But when her family moves back to
Japan, she soon feels lost and homesick for America. In Japan everyone
calls her by her Japanese name, Masako. She has to wear kimonos and
sit on the floor. Poor May is sure that she will never feel at home in this
country. Eventually May is expected to marry and a matchmaker is hired.
Outraged at the thought, May sets out to find her own way in the big city of
Osaka. Allen Say has created a moving tribute to his parents and their
path to discovering where home really is.
Personal Review: Tea with Milk by Allen Say
Realistic in both its pain and beauty, this is a wonderful book.
Many Japanese-Americans find, after being considered foreigners in the
US all their lives, that they are also considered foreigners in Japan. They
find themselves thinking, "Hey, I'm American after all," even if they had
been treated as foreigners back home. This is worst for people in parts of
the US where there are few Asian people, and this kind of experience can
lead to them feeling alone in the world and deeply depressed. In parts of
the US where there are many Asian people, they are more likely to feel
fully accepted for who they are, and thus, they have a real home. In
Hawai'i, Japanese-Americans have for generations made up such a large
proportion of the population that they feel very comfortable and confident in
their own unique identity: fully American by political loyalty with a culture
heavily influenced by Japanese culture but unique to Hawai'i. Having
somewhere in the world where you are understood, accepted, and loved
contributes toward happiness to a much greater degree than I would have
predicted before leaving home. Alan Say captures the complexities and
emotions of this kind of struggle with a short, carefully worded text and
several beautiful illustrations. And it has a happy ending!
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