FROM MY GRANDMOTHER'S BEDSIDE by Norma Field

FROM MY GRANDMOTHER'S BEDSIDE

Sketches of Postwar Tokyo
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A quiet collection of reminiscences and observations about modern-day Japan, framed by accounts of ministering to the author's stroke-ravaged and bedridden grandmother. The daughter of an American GI and a Japanese mother, Field, a scholar of East Asian language and culture at the University of Chicago (In the Realm of a Dying Emperor, 1991), devotes many of these short essays to painting the minutiae of ordinary family life (bedding, cats, the backyard garden). Less attractive but more important to the book is her account of the emotionally arduous routine followed by Field (who had come to Tokyo for just this reason) and her own mother in caring for the old woman--a duty that other relatives, as Field pointedly notes, had shunned. She shares other childhood memories reawakened by her sojourn in Japan: her tenuous status among other children as a child of mixed race; her mother's public shame as a result of the breakup of her marriage to the American soldier; her grandmother's beauty and vibrancy before her illness. She also ruminates on Japan's conduct during WW II and on the dropping of the atomic bomb, the shock waves of which still resonate throughout the society. Thus Field castigates those who would deny the emperor's responsiblity for the war, dissects the fanatical commitment of young kamikaze pilots, and recounts the atrocities performed on the Chinese during the Japanese occupation. Still, her harshest criticism in this understated book comes to rest on the bomb and on what she considers America's refusal to acknowledge the awful and unnecessary holocaust that followed. While one feels only a hint of drama here, Field writes with poetic sensitivity and nuance; her rendering of a close-knit family strikes a universal chord.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-520-20844-7
Page count: 204pp
Publisher: Univ. of California
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1997