Originally published in 1949, these 22 stories present subtle glimpses into the lives of Japanese-Americans in their neighborhood in Oakland, California, aka “Yokohama.”
Mori has a delicate touch, and the stories have more than a passing resemblance to Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio (1919); in fact, that book is specifically referenced in “Akira Yano,” a poignant tale about a man whose family wants him to train as an engineer though his dream is to become a writer. Unfailingly optimistic, Yano winds up paying $300 to have his book published, all the while expecting glowing reviews and never quite realizing the extent to which his “success” is negligible. In “Slant-Eyed Americans,” a family learns with shock that the parents of American citizens of Japanese descent have been declared “enemy aliens.” An added irony is that Kazuo, the eldest son in the family, is an American soldier trying to get home on leave. “Say It With Flowers” introduces us to Mr. Sasaki, the owner of a flower shop, who hires Teruo, a worker upset that “old” flowers are being passed off as fresh. Unable to get his mind wrapped around how the business is supposed to operate, Teruo winds up giving flowers away as a final gesture before he’s fired. In “The All-American Girl,” two brothers extravagantly admire Ayako Saito, a young woman who eventually gets married and moves to Los Angeles, though their admiration for her is in direct proportion to their fear of meeting her and breaking the magical spell of her presence.
Like Sherwood Anderson's, many of Mori’s stories don't have a beginning, middle and end; they're nostalgic vignettes of a life that has now passed away.