Something that struck me in jumping from “The Woman Warrior” to “No-No Boy” were the similarities between Maxine’s mom and Ichiro’s mom. They both are hardworking women, described as cold and relatively unfeeling, and they both have superstitions that cause their children to think of them as “crazy.” However, I think their roles in the stories are a bit different. In distancing herself from her mother, Maxine felt like she was beginning her journey to the woman she was becoming. Her relationship with her mom, coming to a turning point at the end, in some ways shows the way that her thoughts about her womanhood and her culture as a Chinese American progressed. To me, the way that Ichiro feels about his mother and his distance from her really helps to show the dichotomy between him as an American and him as Japanese. When reflecting on why he didn’t fight for America, he says, it was not my mother, whom I have never really known” (32). He feels distanced from her, and I have read it often as him also feeling distanced from Japan. His reasons for qualms with America are made very clear – he did not want to fight because of the way Japanese people were being treated in America. His distance from Japanese culture isn’t really spelled out in the same way, but I feel like it’s written into the parts of this book that are about Ichiro’s mother. Thoughts? Did anyone pick up on the similarities between Maxine and Ichiro’s mothers as well? What do you think about the roles that they play in these books?
the similarities between the two moms in “the woman warrior” and “no-no boy”
2 thoughts on “the similarities between the two moms in “the woman warrior” and “no-no boy””
I actually haven’t thought about this, but you do have a point – where Donald Duk centered around a father, mothers are the center of the parent-child conflict in both No-No Boy and The Woman Warrior. And I think you make a really good point about the distance, and the fact that the mothers of each book are painted as the centers of the household. So I guess what I’m fascinated by is the fact that I didn’t notice any of that – I haven’t even thought of connecting the mothers in the two novels. It’s not because I think you’re wrong, but because the storytelling mechanics of the two are so different. Kingston’s book is billed as a memoir, yes, but it paints what we in class called a dialogic identity, whereas Okada’s book comes closer to a psychological profile of a single man (although not quite – we get points of view from Kenji’s father and I think from Ichiros?).
I guess what I’m thinking about how, in the context of the similarities the two women have, it’s fascinating how different the effects they have on the audience are. Kingston’s use of Brave Orchid’s point of view made me feel like I ‘understood’ her, which means I couldn’t assume a wholly adversarial position against her. I think No-No Boy is also getting to that point – I’m as far as chapter 7, and the narrative doesn’t seem to be painting her. But still, the fact that we’re not in her head means that we see her as foreign to us in a way that we aren’t for Brave Orchid.
I just think this is a really interesting point of comparison – these books are both about generational conflicts, but I think the parental figures in them have really distinct narrative effects.
Maybe mothers are a theme in this kind of narrative (the immigrant/assimilation/cultural identity narrative). Mothers symbolize the “motherland,” and their behavior, traditions, and rules might be meant to reflect those of the country with which the characters are struggling to reconcile their relationships.