Adventures in Reading

Nisei Daughter by Monica Sone
April 3, 2008, 3:10 pm
Filed under: book reviews, nonfiction

Monica Sone’s autobiography Nisei Daughter is the first book I’ve read in the One Book finals. As I mentioned a few posts back, this is my first time where it is necessary to provide a rating for a book. More often than not when it comes to rating on sites such as LibraryThing or Netflix my score is weighted just as much on whim of the moment as it is on how I actually felt about the piece. With Nisei Daughter, I had to be rather more meticulous in my reflections on the novel and how it compares to the other three novels in the series. Who knows? Perhaps it will be catching.

As I mentioned, Nisei Daughter is a nonfiction piece, which is attractive as our community has always stayed with a fictional book (+). (It’s also a great opportunity as Monica Sone lives locally (++), which allows for the practical purpose of saving money on the author appearance and also gives the community the chance to explore Asian culture within our own culture.) Monica is a Japanese-American and A good deal of the literature I came across in my exploration almost exclusively focused on Internment camps, which is certainly a much needed discussion, but Sone’s memoir is ripe with cultural information from Japanese school, to specific Japanese holidays, to common cultural muddles, and her family’s dynamics (+++). Additionally, her novel does offer looks at historically significant events such as Internment camps to TB wards. Ultimately, Nisei Daughter offers an extensive list of discussion points.

Nisei Daughter is somewhat of a series of vignettes that is a multi-faceted exploration of her life and her identity, and the chapters can almost individually stand. The first chapter is definitely slow moving (-), but the following chapters do pick up and are entertaining. Though the idea of finding a book to suit a younger audience has been discarded, Nisei Daughter would still meet any age appropriateness needs (+). Nisei Daughter also has an Introduction and Preface that provides a good deal of additional information on the author, book, and Japanese-American experience (+).

My other problem with the book is a bit of a sticky issue for myself and I’ve reread the final passage a few times to try and settle this with myself. During the final chapter, Sone visited a friend of the family whose son had been killed in the war. In a letter to his father, the son quoted the father’s comments on the Internment camp: “It’s for the best. For the good of many, a few must suffer. This is your sacrifice. Accept it as such and you will no longer be bitter.” A page later Sone reflects that: “Her [America’s] ideas and ideals of democracy are based essentially on religious principles and her very existence depends on the faith and moral responsibilities of each individual. I used to think of the government as a paternal organization. When it failed me, I felt bitter and sullen. Now I know I’m just as responsible as the men in Washington for its actions.”

I’m having problems accepting this conclusion and I’m also nervous on how a largely conservative area may interpret these statements. (+/-).

On a purely physical and practical level, the book is a standard paperback (+), under 250 pages (+), and after calling around seems to sell at a standard $14.95 (+/-). One downside is that the cover is very much a small press selection and while I am intrigued by the photograph (assumed of Monica and her sister) it’s not an eye catching cover (-). Additionally, our last One Book sold thousands of copies and I have concerns whether or not enough copies can be obtained (-). Because the author and book are relatively unknown, the One Book project should consider the possible need of spending additional money for publicity (-).

Score: 6

1 Comment

(This need not be pubished)
Saw your post about Nisei Daughter. My organization,, plans to interview the author (she is getting up in years, obviously) and would appreciate any questions you’d like us to pass along. We’ll be posting that and other information about Monica Sone and the book, as well as other elements, live and archived.

Comment by Dave Wilson

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: