I am always fascinated by other cultures and how they think and work - and how they interpret our own confusing culture, as well. Rarely are we able to see both sides of that view, but How to Be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway allows us to see Shoko's point of view from the time she was a young girl in Japan defying - carefully - her parents all the way through her old age where she longs to go to Japan for the first time since she married her Navy serviceman husband shortly after World War 2.
I am fascinated by the varying views Japanese had of the Americans after the war, from those like Shoko and her father who were ready to move forward with the new reality to her brother Taro who hates all Americans and will never give up. There is also great perspective on Japanese culture from the Eta, or untouchable, caste to working in a large hotel catering to Americans.
Shoko hasn't always had control over her life, and she certainly doesn't over her failing health, but she is a realist and finds the best way for her to move forward. That doesn't mean she doesn't fight for what she believes in, as shown when she refuses to let an American serviceman make her his mistress when she first moves on her own. She has her morals and standards, many of which caused her regret the outcomes as in her relationship with her children, though who among us get that one right?
The scariest thing to me is the excerpts from "How to Be an American Housewife" - a guidebook with advice on how to become an indispensable wife in America, as well as sharing how to deal with some of the culture shock. The advice shared there was often wrong-headed in my view, although fortunately Shoko seemed to recognize that, as well. I know that much of what the book preached was required by many of the men who married Japanese women, if they even brought them back from Japan. The treatment by many of the Americans was deplorable, but there are still those who triumphed over it and found ways to be happy.
From a rebellious daughter to a grandmother wishing she had raised her children differently, Shoko is an intriguing figure who draws us into her life as she muses over where she's been while dealing with her current situation. How would you have handled being married to someone from a foreign culture then being transplanted with no support?
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In the interest of full disclosure, I received a copy of "How to Be an American Housewife" for review purposes. I am also compensated as part of this campaign, but as always, all opinions expressed are my own - just check out some of my not so positive book reviews for proof of that!