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The Secrets of Mariko: A Year in the Life of a Japanese Woman and Her Family Paperback – October 29, 1996
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From Publishers Weekly
An examination of contemporary Japanese society as seen through a year in the life of a middle-class woman.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
While interviewing in Japan for the Washington Post in 1991-92, journalist Bumiller chronicled through an interpreter a year in the life of Mariko, "an ordinary Japanese woman," and her family and neighborhood. Her struggle to balance her own needs with those of her family is a "reminder that certain universalities transcend borders." Like the author's May You Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons (LJ 5/1/90), about Indian women, Mariko is best suited to young adults despite its occaisional cliches. In 1910 Makiko Nakano (1890-1978) was a newlywed daughter-in-law with responsibilities in a busy family community that functioned both as a residence and as a store. Likable, assiduous Makiko detailed changes taking place in her early-20th-century Japanese town and domestic life in her diary. Nakano Takashi's 1981 publication of his mother's record is in Japanese-language collections of many university libraries. Translator Smith (Japanese, Cornell Univ., ret.), who is associated with the creation of The Diary of a Japanese Innkeeper's Daughter (Cornell Univ. East Asia Program, 1984), provides all the relevant explication, notes, maps, and illustrations a researcher of modern Japanese social history could desire. Both works offer insights into the daily lives of 20th-century Japanese women and help dispel the mythology; both are recommended for public library and women's studies collections, though Makiko's Diary is essential for academic and scholarly libraries.?Helen Rippier Wheeler, formerly with SLIS, Univ. of California-Berkeley,
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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NOTE: The author has very strong views of her own and will state them, but don't let that get in the way of the rest of the book. She digs up a LOT of information and makes it clear that while the Japanese might have different ways of thinking or doing stuff, they do have some of the same goals, dreams and fears.
As I am studying Japanese, I may have found this book much more interesting than someone who has no particular interest in Japan. That said, if you have an open mind and interest in the culture, there's a good chance you'll love this book as much as I did.
At times, it seemed the author was a little too self-seeking. I would certainly hope she has kept in some form of contact with Mariko, and perhaps passed on some royalties from the book - given the massive amount of time Mariko and her family spent with the author (she did give Mariko's family a gift at the end, but to me that didn't seem enough).
Aside from that, the book was a real eye opener and I couldn't put it down.
Bear in mind the author spent time with Mariko between 1991-1992, so by now there will certainly be some cultural discrepencies and perhaps attitude changes.
This book does provide a great peek into an ordinary life, and I've come away with a different view of certain aspects of Japan. I was surprised to learn of how the teenagers fight with their parents, and dismayed to see how much time the Japanese man spends at work instead of with his family (or anything else, for that matter).