To further expand our understanding of the text, I thought I would bring in some of bell hooks’ thoughts about love and justice. bell hooks is a feminist writer whose work Communion explored how sexism and affected women’s ability to be in meaningful relationships with their male partners of whom “only a very, very few loved us – loved us all the way.” I felt this kind of analysis to be very relevant to this book. While her work does not deal with the Asian-American experience specifically, I felt her exploration of power and love would add to our discussion in a kind of exciting way, so I thought I’d provide a few quotes here from her work to act as a lens through which to analyze A Japanese Nightingale.
1). bell hooks is famous for writing “there is no love without justice” – “justice” being equality. To her, love between two partners could not truly occur while there existed the large power imbalance created by a heterosexual patriarchal model of love, particularly when that imbalance went unaddressed. Do you think there is love between Yuki and Jack? How does the power imbalance between them affect their ability to love each other?
2). Almost as if to reinforce the importance of the relationship of justice and love in this story, during its climax we see Taro lamenting that “there is no such thing as justice in this land for the woman” (Watanna 162). This paints the tragedy brought on by injustice within relationships between men and women as a problem of the country, whereas bell hooks writes about this problem from her own experience as a more general dynamic. What role does the country of Japan, and its own gender roles separate from our own, play in the estrangement of Jack and Yuki? Of Yuki and Taro? Is this book a commentary on the damage these gender roles can play in Japan, or in general?
3). In a slightly different direction, what do we think of Yuki’s role as a “geisha girl”? When she is in the role of a “respectable” housewife, she must depend on Jack for money, and the fact that she wants to spend money at her own discretion rather than having Jack be able to see things she buys, is a constant source of tension during the beginning of their marriage. When she earns money through her own performances, she has power over her own finances. However, it is her role as housewife which provides her with the power, the wealth, to provide for her brother. To what extent does wealth become power? Is she more powerful as a poor geisha, or as a wealthy housewife?