Showing posts from January, 2009

Milton Murayama's "Plantation Boy"

Plantation Boy by Milton Murayama

My review
rating: 5 of 5 stars
Tosh, the number one son of the Oyama family, is the hard-head, short tempered plantation boy-- who terrorized Kiyo in the first book and butts heads with his mother Sawa in the second of this series. Here we get into Tosh's head-- and to my surprise, his storytelling was the most compelling.

Murayama creates complete voices-- full psyches and internal worlds-- so subtly that you don't notice how cleverly he's done it. The narrators are so natural that the novels seem like simple autobiographies. I realized with a jolt half-way through that the whole book is in the present tense. That gives the storytelling an immediacy and compelling urgency, even when the content is as detached as laundry lists: who is getting married, who has died.

Tosh is all reports-- all political headlines, boxing scores, transcribed letters and major life events like a bulleted list. He gives no thought to the interior lives of the peo…


I love-- and loathe a tiny bit-- the Local tradition of hugging and kissing. You hug and kiss people when you're introduced to them, people you see everyday, when you say hello and when you say goodbye... On one hand, it's comforting.

At a wedding, I ran into Aunty Ulu who I had met once briefly at church. She wrapped me in her arms and kissed me soundly on the cheek. I felt so comforted-- suddenly grounded in the strange setting of a fancified wedding with 100s of people I don't know, clinking their champagne glasses and balancing on high heels. And I loved the time consuming tradition of kissing everybody at church before the service started-- it would be unspeakably rude to just walk past all the kupunas and go to your pew. You have to stop and stoop to brush every dry soft cheek with your lips. Kissing down the line of tutus in their bright flowered muumuus made me feel warm and included-- part of the congregation, part of the family.

Kissing can also make me feel …

Still grateful...

This economic downturn thing has been reminding me of a loose t-rex. At first you only hear rumors that it's out there, and then a few newspaper articles confirm the rumors, and then friends of friends have actually seen it, and then an acquaintance, and then it finally reaches the inner circle-- your own friends and family start coming home with puffy T-rex bites. A high school aqcuaintance had his house foreclosed on, friends are getting downsized, and now immediate family members are trying to change jobs, or suddenly experiencing long stretches of unwelcome leisure.
The landscape reconfigures itself-- it's now a place inhabited by monsters. You can feel the distant footsteps, see the water shaking in the glass.
In the last week, I've talked to four people who are being downsized. Two families who moved here this year for construction projects are having the projects shut down under them. One man had his hours on a road crew reduced by 30 percent. Another family was tol…

Rodeo Whales

Skyla announced at playgroup on Friday that her son, Kalani, would be riding in the high school rodeo this weekend, and that everyone should come down and watch.
I like rodeos-- I like the girls dressed up in their ribbed plaid shirts and pink alligator boots, and the boys in their silver-spangled hats and shiny belt-buckles. I like the little brothers and sisters roping each other behind the stands, and the parents screaming and cheering, and the terrible food stalls.
I don't know anything about rodeos-- I know enough to correct myself from "Baby cow" to "calf" but don't ask me what event is on or who is up or what a good running time is.
The rodeo is a cultural experience for me-- like being a tourist in Athens. I can appreciate the aesthetics and excitment of the moment without really understanding what's going on.
When I asked Skyla where the arena is, she said, "at the end of the road. Just go to the end of the road, and it's right there."…