Oct 1, 2011

Book Review: How to Be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway

""Once you leave Japan, it is extremely unlikely that you will return, unless your husband is stationed there again or becomes wealthy.

Take a few reminders of Japan with you. If you have room. Or make arrangements to write to a caring relative who is willing to send you letters or items from your homeland. This can ease homesickness.

And be sure to tell your family, "Sayonara." (from the chapter, "Turning American" )
(The book later tells you that "Sayonara" doesn't mean just "goodbye," but "goodbye forever.")

Comments: This novel tells the story of a young Japanese woman who marries an American soldier after WWII and comes to live in America, becoming estranged from her brother Taro who remains bitter over the results of the war and the American bombing of Nagasaki.  In America, the young wife Shoko struggles to live among strangers in a different culture, and is given a book of advice by her American husband Charlie - How to Be an American Housewife. The story and the book are from the 1950s and the advice reflects the times.

Shoko's story is sad because of the estrangement from her brother, the hard time she has with English and raising her son and daughter in an environment unfamiliar to her, and also sad because of a secret she carried from Japan with her that she has told no one about. Redemption comes in the second part of the novel, when Shoko's adult daughter Suiko or Sue agrees to return to Japan for her mother, who has suffered a stroke and is unable to travel. Sue meets Shoko's cousins and reunites with Shoko's brother Taro, seeing Japan for the first time.

The novel is well-written and the characters, especially Shoko, realistic and sympathetic. The author based her book on her Japanese mother's experiences and the book that her father had given her mother to help her adjust to American society - How to Be an American Housewife.

Title: How To Be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Berkley Trade; Reprint edition (August 2, 2011)
Genre: fiction, historical fiction
Objective rating: 4.5/5

This book was sent to me by the publisher through Shelf Awareness. My review and rating were in no way influenced by my receiving a complimentary copy.

Submitted to Japanese Literature Challenge V and  Immigrant Stories 2011 Challenge.


  1. I'm definitely interested in reading this- just have to round up a copy :-)

  2. This one sounds like a really great story about the clash between two very different cultures.

  3. I have this book, but have not read it. I loved your review of it, though, being especially fond of not only a Japanese point of view, but the setting of the 1950's. Thanks so much for sharing with us, and renewing my desire to read it.

  4. This was one of my favorite reads last year. Loved it.

  5. This sounds great! And I never realized that Sayonara meant goodbye forever.

    thanks for linking up to the Immigrant Stories Challenge

  6. I love your book review. Makes me really want to read the novel.


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