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How to Be an American Housewife Hardcover – Bargain Price, August 5, 2010

4.2 out of 5 stars 150 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, August 5, 2010
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this enchanting first novel, Dilloway mines her own family's history to produce the story of Japanese war bride Shoko, her American daughter, Sue, and their challenging relationship. Following the end of WWII, Japanese shop girl Shoko realizes that her best chance for a future is with an American husband, a decision that causes a decades-long rift with her only brother, Taro. While Shoko blossoms in America with her Mormon husband, GI Charlie Morgan, and their two children, she's constantly reminded that she's an outsider--reinforced by passages from the fictional handbook How to Be an American Housewife. Shoko's attempts to become the perfect American wife hide a secret regarding her son, Mike, and lead her to impossible expectations for Sue. The strained mother-daughter bond begins to shift, however, when a now-grown Sue and her teenage daughter agree to go to Japan in place of Shoko, recently fallen ill, to reunite with Taro. Dilloway splits her narrative gracefully between mother and daughter (giving Shoko the first half, Sue the second), making a beautifully realized whole.
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From Booklist

Shoko was a young woman in Japan during WWII. Once her parents realized that Japan was going to be defeated, they encouraged Shoko to marry an American and obtain a better life. She did so at the expense of her relationship with her brother, Taso, who could not forgive her for betraying her country. Jumping ahead many years, it’s clear that Shoko has done what she could to be the best American housewife. She now longs to return to Japan and reunite with Taso, but she is too ill to travel. She enlists the help of her daughter, Sue, whose own failings as a housewife have caused a rift between the women. Despite their strained relationship, Sue makes the trip and discovers another side to her mother, and family secrets that have come between them. Dilloway narrates from both women’s perspectives, sensitively dramatizing the difficulties and struggles Shoko and Sue faced in being Japanese, American, and housewives. --Carolyn Kubisz

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult (August 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399156372
  • ASIN: B004J8HY4O
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (150 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,822,211 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I started Margaret Dilloway's HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE just before bed last week, distracted by my busy day and unable to calm my mind enough to sleep. From the opening sentence, I was surprised at how quickly I sunk into this beautiful, lyrical story -- and how enchanted with Dilloway's world I became. I didn't put the book down again until 2 a.m. -- and only when my eyes were literally shutting.

In this novel centering around identity, growth, healing and motherhood, our protagonists are Shoko and Suiko, or Sue. The Japanese wife of a former American GI, Shoko has become American through assimilation. She chose to marry Charlie, a shy redheaded military man, and left her native Japan after the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima left her culture, land and family devastated. Sue is Shoko and Charlie's divorced American daughter, a lovely woman with a 12-year-old daughter, Helena, who understands her mother little and their Japanese heritage even less. Now aging and facing serious surgery, Shoko is looking back at the life she left in the Japanese countryside -- and the family that disowned her when she married an American. After her father chose her future husband out of a photo line-up of American suitors, Shoko said goodbye to her native country . . . and hello to a world even more foreign than the frightening one she abandoned. But toward the end of her life, did Shoko make the right choices? Could she have changed things for herself, for Charlie, for their son Mike -- or for Sue?

From the novel's first words to its rapid conclusion, I was enchanted with everything about Dilloway's story. In the cover blurb, author Jamie Ford calls the story "tender and captivating" -- a description I second whole-heartedly.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
If you have read Amy Tan's "The Joy Luck Club," then you'll be on familiar territory when you take up Margaret Dilloway's debut novel, "How to Be An American Housewife."

Dilloway's heroine is Shoko Morgan, a Japanese woman who marries a Navy medic not so much for love, but out of duty to her parents and for the opportunity of a new life in America. The story is told by two voices. The first part of the book is narrated by Shoko, old and seriously ill, remembering her childhood and youth in Japan, her estrangement from her brother Taro, and the challenges she faced as a military wife in a biracial marriage and as a mother witnessing the growing emotional and cultural gap between her and her two children, Mike and Sue.

The story then switches to Sue's point of view. Sue, along with her own teen daughter, Helena, embarks on a trip to Japan on Shoko's behalf to find Taro. As Sue travels the country to Shoko's village, she finds herself not only pondering on the mother-daughter bond with both Shoko and Helena, but also on her own cultural identity.

As I read Dilloway's novel, I couldn't help but think about what her book has in common with Amy Tan's "The Joy Luck Club." The mother-daughter relationship theme is strong in both as it is the immigration and assimilation experience and the tension that belonging to different cultures can cause in an individual. In spite of the similarities, I enjoyed "How to Be An American Housewife." Shoko is not a shrinking wallflower. Instead, she's a beautiful woman who knows she's beautiful and is not afraid to say it. Her defiance may bring admiration from the readers as she incites her children to ignore those kids who make fun of them. But Shoko cannot escape from the traditions instilled by her parents.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I don't exactly know what I was expecting with this book but I was somewhat surprised with it. I did enjoy reading it and found a lot of the details quite interesting. The Japanese girl who married the marine seems to be capable to survive most situations. When I read that this book was based on the author's mother, I thought that was most interesting as well. I learned some history as I read this book especially when the bomb was dropped in Japan. I believe the author truly captured her mother's emotions, ideas and philosophies and this made the book that much better. I could sympathize with people leaving their home countries for America especially after the war.
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Format: Hardcover
I would like to explain why I chose to read How To Be An American Housewife as I believe my reaction to the title and the whole premise of the story, therefore my opinion of the book, might be a little different than that of an American. I read it from the perspective of a "foreigner" myself. I am English, living in the USA, married to an American. This is why the book caught my attention. Surely there is some commonality anytime a woman marries a "foreigner" and moves to his country? I expected to be able to relate in someway. Hmm, no, not in most ways it turned out. Shoko did not choose her husband for love, her "culture shock" was more shocking than mine, the views of her family (both good and bad) towards her marrying an American, all very different. Most importantly the strained relationship between her homeland and the USA at the time of her marriage and the prejudices, not something I experienced, thankfully. I do think I was able to appreciate how it seemed on occasion that Shoko did not always feel so akin to her own country after being in the USA for a period of time, yet in other ways remaining fiercely Japanese, and on occasion feeling different than those around her in small but real ways. Sometimes good and interesting ways and sometimes confusing ways. For Shoko more often than not very confusing ways. I felt for her. I found the book fascinating on that level, reading about how she learned to navigate American daily life. There was one situation that I completely understood, had experienced myself several years ago, and I appreciated how the book put into words how I felt.Read more ›
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