Polite Lies: On being a Woman Caught Between Cultures

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9780805040791: Polite Lies: On being a Woman Caught Between Cultures
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Twelve essays by a Japanese-American writer about being caught between past and present, old country and new.

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Review:

Kyoko Mori spent a largely unhappy childhood chafing at social restrictions in Japan before migrating to the American Midwest. In 12 beautifully turned essays she shuttles between these two cultures, observing local customs with a wondering eye. Too bold to be emotionally fluent in either land, Mori scrutinizes--and sometimes ridicules--the sound of a woman's voice raised in a childish squeak; the differences between Americans who marry for love (and divorce the day it dissolves) and traditional Japanese women, who may be more likely to find happiness in an honorable widowhood; and the navigation of uncomfortable truths and painful emotions. "Having a conversation in Japanese is like driving in the dark without a headlight," she says. "Every moment, I am on the verge of hitting something and hurting myself or someone else, but I have no way of guessing where the dangers are." Despite frustration and puzzlement, Mori rarely swerves even to make her own limitations more palatable.

From the Inside Flap:

In this powerful, exquisitely crafted book, Kyoko Mori delves into her dual heritage with a rare honesty that is both graceful and stirring. From her unhappy childhood in Japan, weighted by a troubled family and a constricting culture, to the American Midwest, where she found herself free to speak as a strong-minded independent woman, though still an outsider, Mori explores the different codes of silence, deference, and expression that govern Japanese and American women's lives: the ties that bind us to family and the lies that keep us apart; the rituals of mourning that give us the courage to accept death; the images of the body that make sex seem foreign to Japanese women and second nature to Americans. In the sensitive hands of this compelling writer, one woman's life becomes the mirror of two profoundly different societies.

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Kyoko Mori
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