Winner of the 1991 PEN/Jerard Fund Award, Talking to High Monks in the Snow captures the passion and intensity of an Asian-American woman's search for cultural identity.
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In a voice at once penetrating and humorous, vulnerable and wise, Lydia Minatoya takes us on an evocative exploration of cultural identity that starts with her childhood of ethnic isolation in upstate New York in the fifties, as she listens to her parents' astonishing and affecting tales of her Japanese heritage. These stories of the silk-and-shadow world of a samurai family, of immigration and internment, and of spiritual transcendence later propel her outward on her own geographic and emotional journey--from patrician New England to Japan, China, and Nepal--in a search to understand her Asian-ness and its place in a complex American identity.From Publishers Weekly:
In this often delightful memoir of a Japanese American woman's youth in upstate New York, caught between her immigrant parents' culture and her own American experience, two sketches in particular are most revealing. Minatoya's father, a research scientist long employed by the same firm, is nearing retirement when he discovers he has been paid the same wages as his lab assistant. His two outraged daughters, perceiving racial discrimination, cry out: "Sue them blind!" But his Japanese dignity is at stake; besides, he has loved his work and was grateful for the chance to do it, and he feels strong loyalty to his employers. On the other hand, the daughters are entranced when their mother--a clothes designer and seamstress proud to have a career--plucks ancient tunes on her okoto for them, like a traditional Japanese woman. Minatoya is at her lyrical best with such family scenes, and there is both humor and pathos in her account of a visit to relatives in Japan, where she is as much an outsider as she is at home in the U.S. But when she focuses on her American self, her insights falter. The details of a disastrous first teaching job in Boston are sketchy, and her teaching adventures in Okinawa and China are richer in travelogue color than in personal revelations. Despite such weakn e sses, however, the book's charms are many. Author tour.
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