Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction Nisei Daughter Analysis
Adolescents of all ethnic backgrounds are aware of a generation gap between themselves and their parents. As Sone grew up, however, she was also necessarily growing away from her Japanese culture, becoming more and more Americanized. She wanted to convince her Japanese parents that she should be allowed to participate in such American activities as studying ballet or having a boyfriend, but these ideas were not tolerated by her father, who saw such behavior as running contrary to Japanese tradition. He associated ballet dancing with geisha girls and would never consent to his daughter’s entering that profession. Furthermore, he believed that parents should select a future spouse for their child. He wanted his daughter to attend business school, but Sone had her heart set on enrolling in a university.
Yet, as Frank Miyamoto observes in the introduction to the book, Sone seemed to have a more intimate and companionable relationship with her mother than was true of most nisei children. Her mother was a refuge and shelter for Sone and her siblings, and she was very much a nurturer. Because she came to the United States at seventeen, before the pattern of Japanese culture had been too firmly established within her, she cooked mainly Western meals for her family. She seemed more sympathetic to her children’s needs, perceptions, and values than did a neighbor, Mrs. Matsui, who tried vigilantly to foist “old country” manners, mores, and punishment upon her unwilling and resistant children.
Although, in Sone’s world, parents and children did not always understand one another or agree, her home situation was one of love, support, and good humor. Her family celebrated their heritage with a community picnic in Jefferson Park, com-memorated the new year both Western style and Japanese style, enjoyed a trip to Japan, grieved together at the death of Sone’s brother Kenji from illness, encountered racial discrimination when they sought to rent a summer vacation home on the coast, and, most of all, endured months of hardship confined in relocation camps with thousands of other Japanese Americans.
Nisei Daughter is a critically important document in a number of respects—personally, sociologically, and historically. In addition to exploring the personal life of a girl growing up among her family, sociologically the book depicts the influence of the environment on a developing personality. Her street—with its fishing pier, second-hand clothing store, tavern, mission hall, café, hot dog stand, and cigar shop—sparked the imagination of Sone and her siblings. Sone’s nine-month recuperation in a tuberculosis sanatorium, forcing her association with Western girls, made her aggressive, opinionated, and talkative. She herself noticed the...
(The entire section is 666 words.)