Elizabeth Miki Brina
Mr B's review
The daughter of an American serviceman and the Japanese wife he met whilst stationed in Okinawa in the 1970s, Brina explores her complex and diverse family history and the prejudice she encountered growing up in New York state.
Here’s a story. On the U.S.-occupied island of Okinawa, an American soldier falls in love with a beautiful Japanese woman. He saves her from a life of grinding poverty. They settle in the States, to live out the suburban American Dream with their child.
Here’s another version. The U.S. military has occupied Okinawa since World War Two, after slaughtering a third of the island’s population; the beautiful Japanese woman lives in poverty and marries the soldier as a way to escape.
Here’s a third version. A little girl grows up with a mother who can’t pronounce her name. She meets blood relatives with whom she cannot communicate. She clings to a sense of whiteness that white peers will not let her claim. She is born as the convergence of these conflicting stories and as she grows up she must reclaim her own narrative.
Speak, Okinawa is Elizabeth Miki Brina’s courageous and heart-breaking testament to the struggle for belonging. It is a story about the immigrant experience; it is a story about how it feels to grow up biracial; it is a story about the island of Okinawa, from its first inhabitants to its colonisation by Japan and the United States. But above all, it is a story about reckoning with your history, and the links that tie you to your heritage and give you a sense of home within yourself.
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