Otoko (short story)
Creators: Wakako Yamauchi
Short story by Wakako Yamauchi centering on a Nisei brother and sister who recall their father and their family's prewar and wartime hardships while listening to Japanese folksongs. On the longest day of the year one summer, Kiyo visits his sister, the narrator, bringing a record of Japanese children's songs. The act of listening to the songs triggers memories of their early years. Once relatively prosperous, their fortunes turn dire quickly when their father loses his job. He becomes a tenant farmer, but can't make enough to support the family. Kiyo recalls a time when he went with his father to visit a friend, Kiyo thinks, to ask to borrow money. The narrator recalls working as a "school girl" with a white family for a few months, returning to find her family living in a tent, her little sister's teeth rotting, and her father suffering from a stomach ailment. Later, they live in a boarding house, where her mother cooks for the tenants; the narrator recounts an attempted sexual assault by one of them. Their parents' dream of returning to Japan are dashed forever by the family's wartime incarceration as Japanese Americans. While the narrator leaves camp early to work in Chicago and Kiyo ends up in Tule Lake , one of the Nisei who renounces his citizenship , their father dies in camp just prior to the camp's closing after the end of the war.
"Otoko" was originally published in the 1980 holiday edition of the Rafu Shimpo . It was reprinted in a slightly different from in Yamauchi's first anthology, Songs My Mother Taught Me: Stories, Plays, and Memoir in 1994.
For More Information
Yamauchi, Wakako. "Otoko." Rafu Shimpo , Dec. 20, 1980, 9–10, 17, 28, 33. Reprinted in Wakako Yamauchi, Songs My Mother Taught Me: Stories, Plays, and Memoir , edited and with an introduction by Garrett Hongo, afterword by Valerie Milner (New York: Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 1994): 237–44.