Nisei Daughter Essay - Masterplots II: Women’s Literature Series Nisei Daughter Analysis

Kazuko Monica Itoi

Masterpieces of Women's Literature Nisei Daughter Analysis

Sone, in discussing her early experiences as a Japanese American woman, focuses primarily on her identity. Until her parents told her that she was Japanese, Sone thought that she was like the European-American children in her school. Her demeanor changed, however, from American school to Japanese school, ostensibly emphasizing her duality. In her American elementary school, she was loud, boisterous, and tomboyish, but in Japanese school she was quiet and passive. This apparent cultural confusion paved the way for many conflicts that Sone faced later. In Japan, she shocked a group of young boys when she went to her brother’s aid during a fistfight. On the other hand, a young European-American woman in the sanatorium considered Sone rude and cold because she did not converse comfortably or fluently with her.

During the internment, Sone realized that she and her parents did not share the same nationality, yet the American government made no distinction. The disruption of their lives and their placement in a relocation camp based solely on their ethnicity confused and outraged Sone and the other Nisei. Until this point, they had believed that they were as American as their white counterparts. Many years would pass before Sone achieved a semblance of understanding and appreciation of her biculturality.

Eventually, she began to acknowledge her differences and her similarities. Sone realized that she is part of two cultures and must strike a balance between the two. When her parents told her that she and her brothers and her younger sister were Japanese, she found the knowledge inconvenient and burdensome. It was not until she was older that she realized that culturally she was American, while physically she was Japanese. Sone finally synthesized her identities and became a whole person. She writes, “I had discovered a deeper, stronger pulse in the American scene. I was going back into its main stream, still with my Oriental eyes, but with an entirely different outlook, for now I felt more like a whole person instead of a sadly split personality. The Japanese and the American parts of me were now blended into one.” She became now distinct, the synthesis of Asia and America. Ultimately, she would want to use this distinctive characteristic to her advantage.