littlebutfierce: (utena queer)
[personal profile] littlebutfierce posting in [community profile] littleknownbooks
Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers is the story of Lovey Nariyoshi, a Japanese American growing up poor in Hawaii during the 1970s. It's heart-wrenching to see Lovey yearning to be white, and realizing that she's not white and that she never can be--and that this means all the things that are held up in her life to be superior and desirable aren't within her reach. How this plays out in her relationship with her family is also incredibly poignant. The last chapter of the book always makes me bawl, reliably, in a "don't finish this book in public" sort of way.

Yamanaka's novels all focus on working-class Hawaiian life and also the complicated interplay between the different racial and ethnic groups there. They generally feature families who are trying to love each other, in their own way. But they're stumbling because they're full of broken people, who were broken by their own families in turn.

She is one of the few writers whose entire works I want to read. I would also particularly recommend Name Me Nobody, a YA novel about a girl coming to terms both with her weight and with her best friend's queerness, and Behold the Many, about sisters in 1913 Hawaii who are put into an orphanage for children with tuberculosis whose families cannot afford treatment.

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Little-Known Books

October 2012

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