Chapters 15-23: Questions and Answers

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 502

Study Questions
1. The King bird is an imaginary creature who judges others’ truthfulness, especially in children. Why does Naomi become preoccupied with the bird after she and her friends think they see him?

2. During the mid-1940s when Naomi lives with her family in Slocan, she is old enough to notice that her questions go unanswered or are not addressed directly. Name at least two examples of questions no one will answer for her.

3. What does the word “wagamama” mean, and in what instances does it apply in Naomi’s life?

4. On the train to Slocan, Naomi and Obasan pay attention to the young mother of a newborn baby, noting she lacks the resources to care for him. How does this scene contribute to the image of Japanese Canadians?

5. As the novel progresses, Stephen’s affinity for music makes itself known. How does Stephen’s interest in music serve as a creative outlet for him?

1. Naomi is aware that information is being withheld from her, that the adults and Stephen know things she doesn’t about others’ health and whereabouts. But she also has a growing sense that there is a moral question regarding the withholding of information: Is it a lie if people omit the truth, versus telling you false information? The silence in her home makes her wonder about this.

2. Naomi wants to know where her father is and what TB (tuberculosis) is, but is told only that the family must pray for her father and that tuberculosis is an illness some people judge. She is never told whether her father has tuberculosis, though readers may recognize that his persistent cough and references to his health in other chapters indicate he might have the disease.

3. “Wagamama” is a Japanese word for selfish and inconsiderate, and Naomi is taught that if she is too persistent in asking questions of others, especially her elders, it is impolite. Yet, she also realizes that it is painful to not receive the information she and others need and seems to doubt whether it is “wagamama” to want to know basic facts about her family and environment.

4. Though the Japanese Canadians were treated with great disrespect by the Canadian government and sent off to the interior with little time to prepare, they were supportive of one another and easily formed a sense of community out of their circumstances. Obasan and another old woman make efforts to provide the new mother with food and fabric that she can use to swaddle the infant.

5. Stephen’s enjoyment of music is a trait inherited from his music-loving father. At times of celebration, the family plays music together, and Stephen enjoys the connection this brings him to the family. Music is also Stephen’s method of escape—both metaphoric and literally. He travels to Toronto to study music, and begins touring overseas, distancing himself not only from his Japanese heritage but also his Canadian upbringing as a result. Naomi, lacking such an outlet, ends up near home in adulthood.

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