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The Material Child: Coming of Age in Japan and America Paperback – September 29, 1994


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (September 29, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520089405
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520089402
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,208,071 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this exemplary cross-cultural study of teenagers in the U.S. and Japan, White ( The Japanese Educational Challenge ) zeros in on the critical differences and similarities in the way these groups are socialized, contending that conflicting social mores cause much of the current perplexity in the two countries' relations. While some of the material has surface familiarity, White's in-depth examination of each group's schooling, friendships, family relations, sexuality, search for identity and feelings about their own and each others' countries is newly revealing. The book reflects White's 30-odd years of teaching and studying young people in both Japan and the U.S.--where she is an associate professor of sociology at Boston University and a research associate at Harvard's Reischauer Institute. For this study, she interviewed a relatively small, but broad, cross section of her two societies, teenagers as well as psychologists, marketers and music promoters who play key roles in the lives of these adolescents. Because many of them are newly affluent, they face similar conditions, which is a particlarly instructive focus in a superb, thorough and accessible account.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

An enterprising, somewhat impressionistic overview of contemporary adolescence in the US and Japan. White (Sociology/Boston University; The Japanese Educational Challenge, 1986, etc.) contrasts teenage years in the two cultures using a variety of measures based on firsthand observation and more formal sources of data. American and Japanese teenagers may seem superficially similar, she suggests, but their outlooks and daily behavior differ along with the ways they are perceived by the larger populations. In Japan, adolescence is not seen as problematic. Teenagers have less leisure time (the school year is 240 days), focus on the ``examination imperative,'' and tend to be viewed as dependent but bound for maturity and traditional Japanese life. In the US, ``teen'' is a four-letter word, characterized by assorted forms of rebellion and burdened by the mixed messages of ``just say no'' and ``just do it.'' Both groups find solace--and self-definition--in friendships; respond readily to questions about ideals and future plans; and are heavily influenced by marketing and the media. In Japan, market choices tend to reinforce tendencies to conform; in our larger, more diverse society, consumption tends to reinforce differences. Parents of American teenagers may be surprised to learn that Japanese adolescents spend even more time shopping than American teenagers do, primarily because smaller houses as well as custom discourage socializing at home. White repeats important concepts for her American readers (the discrepancy between tatemae--official form--and honne--true reality); includes less familiar but essential aspects of Japanese culture (the prevalence of manga--comic books--and magazines as sources of information); and emphasizes significant differences between the two student populations, including the tendency of Japanese teenagers to keep their sexual activities private (``the sexual relationship is no longer a taboo; what is taboo is the public recognition of the sexual relationship''). An instructive contrast of cultures, written in an almost casual style. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author


Merry White (also known as Corky) was born in Washington D.C. and raised in Chicago and Minnesota. She received her degrees (A.B., A.M., and PhD) from Harvard University in Anthropology (East Asian), Comparative Literature (English, French and Italian), and Sociology (Japan). She was Director of the Project on Human Potential at the Harvard Graduate School of Education from 1980 - 1986, a multinational study of learning with case studies in Japan, India, The People's Republic of China, Egypt, West Africa and Mexico. She was also Director of International Education at the School of Education during this period, and from 1976 - 1987 was administrator of the East Asian Studies undergraduate program at Harvard College. In 1987 she began teaching at Boston University and received tenure in 1989.

Her publications include: Coffee Life in Japan, (University of California Press, 2012); Perfectly Japanese: Making Family in an Era of Upheaval (University of California Press, 2002); The Material Child: Coming of Age in Japan and America (Free Press, 1993; Dobunshoin, 1993; University of California Press, 1994); Comparing Cultures (with Sylvan Barnet, Bedford Books, 1995); The Japanese Educational Challenge, (Free Press, 1986, Princeton University Press 1992, and Shueisha, 1992); The Japanese Overseas, (Free Press, 1988); Human Conditions (with Robert LeVine, Routledge, 1987) and Challenging Tradition: Women in Japan, (Japan Society, 1992). In addition she has published two cookbooks, Cooking for Crowds (Basic Books, 1973) and Noodles Galore (Basic Books 1976) and has written many articles on food and culture.

Merry White teaches courses on urban Japanese society, on food and culture, on women in Asia and on the anthropology of travel and tourism. In addition to teaching and writing, Dr. White is also consultant to educational and media projects related to Japan and to culinary anthropology. She has studied cooking in Japan and Italy, and was a professional caterer. She has also recently worked with the Discovery Channel to create a television series on Asian foodways, appearing in a one hour segment on Japanese cuisine which won two Asian Television awards. Her next project is a book on the world history of food, written with her son Ben Wurgaft, to be followed by a research project on the natures of food work. She also works with a project to sell Cambodian coffee in Japan, in order to support local development and elementary schools in north-eastern Cambodia. She has two children: Jennifer (White) Callaghan who is a lawyer in London, and Benjamin Wurgaft, an intellectual historian in Berkeley, California, and one grandchild, Meghan Callaghan. Merry White lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, about half-way between them.

A recent interview:http://www.heartnstomach.com/post/19730573134/corky-white-on-second-winds-japan-and-the-beards#.T2t2GC0GN-k.email
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By James S. Taylor on November 25, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book is a very interesting tour of Japanese youth in the early 1990's. Going beyond mere description she compares Japanese and American teens, blowing away many stereotypes on both sides. I found differences where I wasn't expecting them and surprising ways they are similar. Most of the material focuses on the Japanese side, covering their social development, consummerism, opinions on life's big issues, and how both the group and school mould their personalities and behavior. Make sure not to miss the reproduction of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police's poster on how to figure out if your kid is a juvenile delinquent. It's a laugh!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ian Walker on April 13, 2003
Format: Paperback
Good in that it dispels stereotypes as opposed to other books on Japanese society that try to explain it all. This book uses actual quotes of actual students. With the way society changes, it will be dated soon. The cover photo is already dated.
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