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Onoto Watanna: THE STORY OF WINNIFRED EATON (Asian American Experience) Paperback – May 8, 2006


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Product Details

  • Series: Asian American Experience
  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press; 1 edition (May 8, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0252073886
  • ISBN-13: 978-0252073885
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,433,688 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Birchall tells the story of her colorful half-caste "bad grandma," Winnifred Eaton (1875-1952), who used the pen name Onoto Watanna as part of her ongoing charade as half-Japanese. Born in Montreal, the eighth of 14 children of an English artist father and a Chinese mother, Eaton authored 17 novels (including A Japanese Nightingale, The Heart of Hyacinth, and Miss Num of Japan) and numerous short stories, mostly with Japanese characters and themes. Acknowledged by scholars as a pioneer Asian American writer and as possibly the first Asian American novelist, Eaton was rediscovered as a writer in the 1970s. Birchall, a story analyst at Warner Brothers and author of two historical novels, portrays a curiously fascinating and remarkably bold woman, best-selling novelist, and Hollywood scriptwriter who lived a life as intermingled with fact and fantasy, reality and fiction, as her novels and short stories. Because Birchall was three when she last saw her grandmother, her portrait has a sense of detachment that the reader can feel but will not find distracting. Recommended for both academic and public libraries. Jeris Cassel, Rutgers Univ. Libs., New Brunswick, NJ
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Birchall's engaging biography of her grandmother will appeal to a broad range of readers: scholars of Asian American literature, students of literary life in New York City, feminist historians exploring the careers of literary women, cinema historians concerned with the medium's early development in Hollywood, critics of Canadian literature, and teachers and practitioners of family history... Birchall was a novice biographer when she began work on this study; but in the process of writing it she transformed herself into a scholar." -- Choice "[Birchall] portrays a curiously fascinating and remarkably bold woman, best-selling novelist, and Hollywood scriptwriter who lived a life as intermingled with fact and fantasy, reality and fiction, as her novels and short stories." -- Library Journal "A scholarly work as well as a delight to read." -- Ginny Lee, Multicultural Review "Birchall, a novelist and Warner Brothers story analyst, reports the life of her 'bad grandmother' in straightforward and heartfelt prose, offering both a fascinating life story and a social history of fin de siecle literary life in New York." -- The Globe and Mail ADVANCE PRAISE "This finely crafted, meticulously researched, and very witty biography of Onoto Watanna/Winnifred Eaton makes the fascinating novelist come alive in all her human contradictions. Birchall's prose reflects her grandmother's gift for spellbinding narrative, mirroring the disarming charm, grace, energy, and vigor of Watanna--as woman and writer--herself. Poignant and moving, but always alive to humor, Birchall's riveting biography is a timely gift to students of Asian American literature, filling a century-long void in Eaton scholarship." -- Samina Najmi, Wheaton College "Immensely enjoyable reading... Eaton is a fascinating woman, both in her personal and professional choices and in the many lives she led and the many worlds she inhabited. This is a story that must be told, and Birchall is the ideal person for the job. She tells Eaton's story with affection, energy, and sensitivity to her subject's unique voice and personality." -- Eve Oishi, California State University at Long Beach --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By D. Cusick on September 25, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In my library I have dozens of books inherited from my parents and my grandparents. We have been readers for several generations, and I grew up with many of these books. One of these books was a novel called "The Heart of Hyacinth" by an author mysteriously named Onoto Watanna. The author was unknown to me, but I thought the book was one of the most beautiful of all the books I'd inherited, with lovely Japanese-style illustrations and drawings.
But now I've had a chance to learn about the woman who lurked behind that exotic nom de plume. I learn she was not Japanese at all, but half Chinese and half English. Yet her true story seems to be as fully exotic as any of the character's lives from her books.
Diana Birchall has done a wonderful job of bringing her fascinating grandmother to life. The book give a wonderful look at a most unusual woman, and what life was like for young women at the turn of the last century. At least what life was like when the young women were as self-confident and gutsy as the young Winnifred Eaton.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mary Ann Dimand on October 25, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Birchall's fascinating and beautifully written account of her grandmother's life is an important work for scholars in women's studies, Asian-American or American studies, Canlit, and the movie industry, and for the general reader seeking a compelling biography.
Other reviewers have mentioned Eaton/Watanna's background. I will stress instead the absorbing interest of Winnifred's successive reinventions of herself in societies that had no ready place for her. Like a brilliant slackrope walker with an increasingly awkward load, Winnifred managed to shift her balance not only to survive, but pulled off one tour de force after another. Her performances as a Japanese-American novelist, as a screenwriter and as a rancher doyenne would win applause from Daniel Defoe.
Eaton/Watanna has become a focal interest of American scholars in recent years. As her granddaughter, Birchall had informaitonal advantages in writing on her. Her graceful, well-considered book shows how glad we should be for Birchall's advantages.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Grada Schadee on September 27, 2001
Format: Hardcover
"A jolly, laughing lady" are the first words of the bigraphy; the last ones are: "To be able to share what I have learned with others has been a privilege and a joy. Has not this journey been an enviable inheritance in itself?"
Inbetween these words Birchall indeed shares with the reader the life of Winnifred, in personal and intimate detail. Birchall also seduces the reader into not just reading, but thinking about the culture and times Winnifred faced in her own inimitable style, from her life in Canada as young girl down to the years of Hollywood.
Normally I am none too fond of biographies but this one enchanted me, by the content and by the style of Birchall's writing. Full of zest, lifely images and easy to read on and on. As non native reader I appreciated this very much; it was a joy and a privilege to share. Would that all biographies were such a good read!
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