12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Caught between cultures,
By A Customer
This review is from: Tea with Milk (Hardcover)
An important theme in Tea With Milk is the fact that as people move between two cultures they often do not feel completely comfortable in either one. May's parents return to Japan because they are homesick. I would guess that they are not as Japanese as they would have been had they not lived in the U. S. Their pushing May to be so traditional could be the result of their attempt to reassimilate. May, of course, experiences most deeply the pain of immigration, and even Joseph, Say's father, is adopted, raised in Shanghai, and working in Japan. Joseph, in fact, best expresses the characters' dilemmas when he says that "home isn't a place or a building that's ready-made and waiting for you, in America or anywhere else". May and Joseph then decide to make a home for themselves and adopt Japan by choice. I found this book more positive and optimistic than Grandfather's Journey where Say's grandfather never seems to reconcile himself to living in either the U.S or Japan and remains saddened, caught between the cultures. Even the title Tea With Milk demonstrates some assimilation on the part of the parents. In a country that drinks tea plain, they drink it in the style of western countries and Allen Say states at the end of the book that that is the way he prefers his tea too. Hopefully, he has found some comfort in defining what he likes from both cultures as well.