A memoir about navigating one’s faith and cultural identity within the parameters of a marriage.
Grunberg Wakabayashi’s book recounts her experiences in an interfaith and interracial relationship. She characterizes herself as the product of “five generations of…Jewish women who took off their corsets to do their bit in shaping the European Enlightenment”; however, one consequence of her family’s legacy of independently minded women, she says, was that many of them ended up trading “religion for education and careers.” The author herself became a successful journalist for various news outlets who led a life of adventure and exploration. In 1987,she left New York City to pursue a journalism career in Tokyo, where she navigated a foreign culture as a “micro-minority.” At the White Crane Eastern medicine clinic, she met Ichiro Wakabayashi, a traditional therapist and Buddhist practitioner. They developed a close rapport that allowed for frank discussions about religion and culture and eventually led to them to marry. Although both of their families accepted their union, the author’s mother urged her to “think carefully about making [a] life with someone from such a different background.” Over time, and with her husband’s encouragement, Grunberg Wakabayashi began to feel the pull of Judaism. This exploration, however, shifted the foundation of her marriage as she struggled to reconcile her current life as a wife and mother with the “Orthodox rulebook of life.” Over the course of this affecting and earnest memoir, the author details her emotional journey to her decision that her marriage and religion couldn’t coexist; however, she also shows that she and her husband’s children could serve as a bridge between two very different faiths and cultures. Grunberg Wakabayashi effectively illustrates this in her description of her daughter’s traditional Japanese “Coming-of-Age ceremony, the Seijinshiki,” which took place in Jerusalem: “Jewish and Japanese wisdom has brought us all closer to God and the temples of our ancestors.” Overall, this is a heartbreaking but ultimately uplifting memoir about spirituality and how sometimes a family must fracture in order to truly thrive.
An honest and moving account of love, loss, and the discovery of faith.