Cynthia Kadohata | Critical Review by Shirley Geok-lin Lim

This literature criticism consists of approximately 2 pages of analysis & critique of Cynthia Kadohata.
This section contains 422 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Shirley Geok-lin Lim

Critical Review by Shirley Geok-lin Lim

SOURCE: A review of The Floating World, in Belles Lettres, Vol. 5, No. 3, Spring 1990, p. 20.

In the following review, Lim discusses the regional and ethnic specificity of The Floating World and hails the novel's depictions of working-class life.

The Floating World. Cynthia Kadohata's first novel, appears with bona fide credentials from mainstream America. In fact, chapters had previously appeared in The New Yorker. Unsurprisingly, her strong prose style is reminiscent of The New Yorker's influence on contemporary American fiction in its plangent syntactic economy of effect.

Although the book is called a novel, it is more precisely a series of eighteen linked stories forming a loose configuration of intersecting moments amounting to a bildungsroman of sorts. What distinguishes it from other first novels on growing up in America is its regional and ethnic specificity.

Olivia Ann, the narrator/protagonist, is a young girl in an extended Japanese-American family unique in American fiction. For one thing, the point of view is clearly that of a Sansei (third-generation Japanese-American). While the stories begin with Obasan, the first-generation Japanese-American grandmother, there is little of the sentimentality associated with stereotypical American portrayals of the Asian family. The eccentric immigrant ancestress abuses and frightens the children so deeply that Olivia Ann refuses to wake her family when she finds Obasan dying on the bathroom floor, and none of the children cry at her funeral.

The stories reveal a world that in its intergenerational conflicts, sexual tensions, and economic instabilities is not much different from the contemporary America of Raymond Carver and Bobbie Ann Mason. What gives Kadohata's stories a brittle and poignant edge is that these familiar, ill-matched characters drifting through a featureless terrain of motels and makeshift rented homes are given cultural significance in a Japanese-American subculture. As the children move from foster parent to their own family and from state to state (in a peculiarly American rendition of the Japanese concept of ukiyo, (the floating world of artists, geishas, and bohemians), they remain within a stable community of relatives and other Japanese-Americans.

Some of the best passages in the novel are the depictions of economic activity among these landless, unsettled people. Working in the hatcheries in the South as sexers separating male from female chicks, they form an exploited but proud class of expert rural workers. Paradoxically, the floating world of migrant Japanese-Americans is solidly grounded in these fine particularities of a working class milieu, portrayed through a woman's sensibility. Kadohata's novel is a fine contribution to the growing body of Asian-American women's writing.

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This section contains 422 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Shirley Geok-lin Lim
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