The Loom

The opening story in this first collection by R. A. Sasaki sets the tone of longing that characterizes each of these nine stories. They describe members of three generations of Japanese Americans who long to blend into the fabric of American society, who both cherish and reject the idiosyncrasies of their culture. The young people especially are caught in a paradox: They would like to be free of these Japanese differences, and yet they also seek acceptance of the vision and traditions they have inherited. “Ohaka-Mairi” is about a death in the family, and the relatives’ difficulties expressing their pain. Part of the problem is the parents’ inability to accept their late daughter’s love for the non-Japanese boyfriend whom they consider responsible for her fatal outdoor accident. Arriving to express his love and condolences, he stood “like a giant redwood among the potted bonsai of my father’s house” observes the narrator, sister of the deceased.

"The Loom” continues the story of how the mother frees herself from her overwhelming wishes and fears for her daughters, which imprison her as well as them. While coping with the death of her daughter, she learns she can give love to her surviving daughters without attaching conditions. This skill she practices metaphorically on her loom, weaving gifts specially suited to each one of them.

The stories look at the competition and emotional bonds between sisters who are growing up together ("Independence"), high school love affairs among the narrator’s Japanese-American friends ("First Love"), and “the bond of obligation, of suffering, of love” which ties parents and adult children ("Seattle"). The bond is made even more difficult in this case by the mother’s traditional Japanese viewpoints and the American-born daughter’s conflicting realization—then conviction—that she is not really Japanese. Sasaki’s prose is so unadorned that its lack of poetry often leaves emotional revelations seeming rather flat. But in these stories, or rather sketches which could well be autobiography only slightly masked, the author chronicles the pains and hopes of family members with a diligence and good-heartedness that make them ring true in both humor and heartbreak.