From My Grandmother's Bedside

From My Grandmother's Bedside

Sketches of Postwar Tokyo

Book - 1997
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From My Grandmother's Bedside is an experiment in genre, a moving and evocative reflection on contemporary Japan, human desire, family relations, life, and death. Norma Field, the daughter of a Japanese woman and an American G.I., and author of the acclaimed In the Realm of a Dying Emperor , returned to Japan in 1995 to tend to her slowly dying grandmother, who had been rendered speechless by multiple strokes. What she finds--both in the memories of her childhood in her grandmother's household and in the altered face of postmodern Japan--forms the substance of her narrative that transcends both memoir and essay to reveal, through crafted fragments, a refraction of the whole of Japan.

Having spent her childhood in Japan and her adulthood in the United States, Field speaks from the position of one who straddles two worlds. Her testimony is highly personal, her voice is intimate, her observations are keen and clear. She juxtaposes details from daily life--conversations overheard on the subway; arguments between her mother and aunts; the struggle to feed, bathe, and care for her grandmother--with observations on the political and social changes that have transformed Japan. She shows how the belated coming to terms with the war and continuing avoidance of the same are intimately related to the look and feel of Japanese society today. She gently folds back the complicated layers of blame and responsibility for the war, touching in the process on subjects as diverse as the effects of the atomic bomb, comfort women, biracial/bicultural families, the farewells of Kamikaze pilots, and the dehumanizing effects of Japan's postwar economic boom. A recurrent theme is the observation of the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the war.

From My Grandmother's Bedside is also a contemplation of the many facets of language: the kinds of language with which her grandmother's illness has been negotiated, the wordless language her grandmother speaks, her own relationship to these languages. Through it all runs the realization that the personal and the political are perpetually entangled, that past and present converge and overlap.
Publisher: Berkeley, CA : University of California Press, c1997.
ISBN: 9780520208445
0520208447
Characteristics: xv, 204 p. ;,21 cm.

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