A JAR OF DREAMS by Yoshiko Uchida


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The sparkle Uchida brought to everyday doings in Japan (Sumi's Prize et al.) is joined, now, to an ugly American situation--but not, as in Journey Home, a historic injustice. Eleven-year-old Rinko's situation, in 1935 Berkeley, is more ordinary--hence, more universally applicable. It isn't just that older brother Cal is studying engineering though, in his words, ""I'll probably end up selling cabbages and potatoes. . . like all the other Japanese guys."" Or, that Rinko herself ""may never get to be a teacher."" Worse, away from home, she feels ""pressed down."" And not for anything will she walk past Wilbur Starr's barbershop, and hear herself derisively called a ""Jap."" The submissiveness and self-doubt is what, remarkably, kimono-clad Aunt Waka from Tokyo dispels. Papa is a mediocre barber with a passion for auto-repairs. To supplement the family finances, Mama starts a home laundry (described, as usual, in engaging detail). Wilbur Starr writes hate notes, threatens, strikes: bundles of laundry are stolen; tires are slashed; younger brother Joji's beloved bassett hound, set out to watch, is shot. And Aunt Waka, of all of them, speaks up: ""She kept asking why or why not. . . I couldn't imagine her wanting to shrink down into the sidewalk like I do."" At her urging, Papa and old Uncle Kanda confront the flabbergasted Start--and, with some unscheduled input from Rinko, leave him sputtering. A.W.S. (After Wilbur Starr), Papa announces his intention to open an auto-repair shop in the garage. Aunt Waka, though, won't remain--any more than Rinko will again wear the kimono she's brought. The family--kidding each other, helping each other--has discovered its own Japanese-American resources. An affecting, spirited coming-to-terms.

Pub Date: Sept. 9th, 1981
Publisher: Atheneum