вход по аккаунту


Personal narrative in the artwork and writing of Allen Say

код для вставкиСкачать
A Project
to the Faculty of
California State University Dominguez Hills
In Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirement for the Degree
Master of Arts
William Nixon
Fall 2010
UMI Number: 1490148
All rights reserved
The quality of this reproduction is dependent upon the quality of the copy submitted.
In the unlikely event that the author did not send a complete manuscript
and there are missing pages, these will be noted. Also, if material had to be removed,
a note will indicate the deletion.
Dissertation Publishing
UMI 1490148
Copyright 2011 by ProQuest LLC.
All rights reserved. This edition of the work is protected against
unauthorized copying under Title 17, United States Code.
ProQuest LLC
789 East Eisenhower Parkway
P.O. Box 1346
Ann Arbor, Ml 48106-1346
Patricia B. Gamon, Ph.D.
Project Committee Chair
Kirsten L. Ellsworth, Ph.D.
Committee Member
Benito Gomez, Ph.D.
Committee Member
I would like to thank Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for graciously granting me permission
to reproduce the artwork of Allen Say within the thesis section of this project. I would
also like to thank Hideki Shimajiri for his help with both the layout and the translation
required of this project, and for his loving companionship these many years.
Review of Literature
1. Tea with Milk
2. Tea with Milk
3. Tea with Milk
4. Kamishibai Man
5. Kamishibai Man
6. Kamishibai Man
7. Home of the Brave
8. Home of the Brave
9. Home of the Brave
A Japanese American writer and illustrator, Allen Say's personal history and
unique vision have combined to bring exceptional depth and scope to the genre of
children's picture books. His work addresses an array of personal and social issues
related to ageism, sexism, cross-cultural and intergenerational conflict, and foreign
adoption, to name a few. This study attempts to bring a level of scholarship to the
discussion of three of Say's major works: Tea with Milk (1999), Kamishibai Man (2005),
and Home of the Brave (2002). Each story draws upon themes central to Say's own
personal narrative, themes reflective of an often difficult existence caught between the
cultures of the United States and Japan. My accompanying project, a children's picture
book titled Okinawan O-mivage, attempts to incorporate my own personal narrative as an
American resident of Japan, using images, real and imagined, from the beautiful island
and surrounding waters of Okinawa.
No one has a happy childhood when there is a war
going on. And no child is happy in a broken home.
I think a large part of what I do is to make my
childhood happier than it was, and make sense of
the things that I didn 't understand as a child.
Allen Say
(Meet the Authors Interview)
For Allen Say it does not get much more personal. While many children's book
authors admit to being inspired by people and events from their childhood, using these to
create the themes and characters of their stories, few approach their work in as
autobiographical a manner as Say. His work is unique for its candor, addressing such
issues as racism, ageism, sexism, cross-cultural and intergenerational conflict, and the
crisis in identity that some of these forces can precipitate in children and young adults,
especially those first and second-generation immigrant children who must learn to live
between cultures, reconciling one with the other. This thesis examines in detail a portion
of Say's work, discussing the manner in which his themes are developed and expressed in
both words and images, as related to the experiences pivotal to Say's formative years
living in both Japan and the United States. Discussion of the illustrations is disciplinebased, following a logical order of description, analysis, and interpretation. Say's images
unfold in cinematic fashion, with one image logically anticipating the next. Each image is
satisfying in its own right and worthy of careful appreciation, along with its strategically
composed text. Concise and lovingly crafted, with a seemingly effortless handling of
often complicated themes, Say's books are as much a pleasure for adults as children.
My creative project, titled Okinawan O-mivage, can be found in Appendix A on a
CD. It is a children's picture book consisting of sixteen color illustrations accompanied
by fifteen pages of text. Inspiration for its creation came from the island of Okinawa and
its people, a land that I have called home for the past eleven years. My illustrative style
was tamed somewhat, as a quiet naturalism substituted for a colorful and more graphic
style in the course of the book's creation. This substitution seemed more in line with
those aspects of the island and its culture that I, over time, grew to favor. My stylistic
shift was also greatly influenced by the work of Allen Say, as his quiet naturalism is so
well-suited to the introspection of his characters and his meticulously developed themes,
embedded in stories rich with detail drawn from Japanese history and culture.
Review of Literature
Apart from published reviews of individual picture books, and a handful of brief
interviews focusing on his personal history and working process, there is little of
scholarship written about Allen Say and his now sizeable body of work. Christina Desai's
article "Weaving Words and Pictures: Allen Say and the Art of Illustration," focusing on
three of Say's lesser known picture books, is a notable exception. In it, Desai discusses
the equal importance of text and image to the meaning of Say's work. She also discusses
the manner in which narrative is communicated via text and image, in ways that
complement as well as contrast. Using narrative theory to objectively analyze, Desai's
article details the numerous and varied techniques employed by Say, as both writer and
illustrator, to carefully craft stories that are unique in terms of theme, plot, and character.
Some of the reviews of Say's picture books are insightful and moving in their
own right, an example being Duane Noriyuki's "Land of the Free," The Los Angeles
Times, 21 April 2002. In it Noriyuki relates the story of his mother, held in a Japanese
American detention camp during World War II. Briefly, but poignantly, he tells of her
struggles and those of her family, linking their very close and personal experiences to
Say's Home of the Brave. "'It wasn't so bad,' my mother said of internment, 'except for
the wind and cold, and the lingering taste of dust'" (Noriyuki 3). As an outgrowth of his
mother's personal connection to the events and circumstances that inspired Say's book,
Noriyuki's writing strikes close to the emotional heart of Home of the Brave. In terms of
his attempted outreach to youngsters through the book, Say's likely intent was to
communicate the emotional history of the time, and how those emotions, and the
questions they inspire, continue to resonate today.
As a group, the published interviews with Allen Say conducted over the years not
only document the evolution of Say's art, but help provide insight into the artist's drive to
create. Common threads of discussion involve Say's early life in Japan and the United
States. In particular, Say's difficulty adapting to the United States as a newly minted
citizen, arriving shortly after the war, continues to shape both the man and his work.
Individuality and identity are themes of universal interest to children and young adults,
and greatly affect the direction of Say's picture books.
Words About Pictures: The Narrative Art of Children's Picture Books, by Perry
Nodelman, examines the complex interrelationships that often exist between text and
image in picture books, with numerous examples and detailed discussions used to drive
home the author's points. Nodelman's insightful analysis and interpretation of images,
and their relationship to text and overall story dynamics, reinforce the notion that
illustrations are as complex and meaningful a medium for narrative communication as the
written word. And together, text and illustrations are capable of conveying more narrative
information than either medium alone.
"The Dynamics of Picturebook Communication," by Maria Nikolajeva and Carole
Scott, similarly uses narrative theory to discuss the dynamics between verbal and visual
media in picture books. With numerous examples, the authors refine their discussion of
the dynamic between text and image, highlighting differences ranging from merely
"symmetrical" interactions, where text and image present the same information, to
"counterpointing" and even "contradictory" interactions, involving the presentation of
new and sometimes ambiguous or contrary information to challenge and inform the
In "How Picture Books Work: A Semiotically Framed Theory of Text-Picture
Relationships," Lawrence R. Sipe conceptualizes the relationship between text and image
in ways similar to Nikolajeva and Scott, using the term "synergy" to express the mutually
reinforcing qualities of text and image when presented together, resulting in a
".. .relationship in which the total effect depends not only on the union of the text and
illustrations but also on the perceived interactions or transactions between these two
parts" (99). In other words, narrative theory's focus on the individual here applies to the
reader's response to the text-image dynamic. As readers tend to understand text in
temporal fashion, and images in spatial fashion, exploring how readers coordinate and
make sense of combinations of text and image, interpreting and assigning meaning, is
essential to fully appreciate the inherent power of picture books.
From an educator's point of view, discussion of narrative theory remains an
academic exercise unless and until it can be directly related to positive learning outcomes.
"Narrative Learning in Adulthood," by M. Carolyn Clark and Marsha Rossiter, does not
discuss picture books, per se. But the article does emphasize the motivating use of
storytelling to engage and inspire learners of all ages, drawing them into the learning
processes of examining and questioning, interpreting and judging. At a basic level we
make sense of the world and our variety of experiences by storying them, by constructing
narratives that make things cohere.
The tendency to identify or empathize with characters and their circumstances is a
common way for writers to engage their reader's interest and involve them with their
story. "A Theory of Narrative Empathy," by Suzanne Keen, examines the place of
empathy in character identification and narrative situation. To identify with another or
their situation might seem a purely emotional connection. However, Keen is clear to
point out that empathy involves both feelings and cognition. "Memory, experience, and
the capacity to take another's perspective (all matters traditionally considered cognitive)
have roles in empathy. Yet the experience of empathy in the feeling subject involves the
emotions, including sensations in the body" (213). Keen's discussion of narrative
empathy is a holistic one, addressing multiple aspects of the reader: physical, intellectual,
and emotional. To properly leverage empathy is to appeal to several aspects of the
reader's personality. To the extent that human beings appear hardwired in their ability to
empathetically respond to others, the study of empathy seems a natural starting point
when evaluating the impact of narrative on the reader.
Manga Kamishibai: The Art of Japanese Paper Theater, by Eric Nash, returns the
reader to a time in Japan when thousands of itinerant street performers transported their
audiences into exciting and fantastical-magical worlds through the power of storytelling
using pictures. More than a simple narrator, a good kamishibaiya ("kamishibai
storyteller") would act out the parts of each character, complete with differing voices and
facial expressions. Kamishibai, though eventually replaced by television, formed the
basis for today's popular art forms of manga ("cartoon strips") and anime ("animated
Last but not least are the picture books of Allen Say. As primary sources their
artistry inspires this effort; and in some small fashion, I hope to emulate their
achievements through my own creation.
Narrative theory is a general way of looking at all manner and form of human
communications, evaluating them based on degrees of "coherence" and "fidelity."
Coherence measures how well elements of a story interrelate and work together in an
organized and meaningful way. Fidelity measures the truthfulness of a story, truth being
relative to the storyteller. Narrative theory assumes that all people are basically
storytellers and that all stories are told for good reasons. The individual, influenced by
such things as history, biography, culture, and character, determines what those good
reasons are.
Because narrative theory offers great latitude in terms of an individual's
definitions of what constitute good and true, its practitioners take a structural approach to
the analysis of communications, focusing more on the "how" than the "what" of
storytelling. As any general theory attempting to cross boundaries of culture and time,
narrative theory affords room for all manner of human experiences and the narratives,
personal and shared, that arise from them.
Unique to the genre of picture books is the synergy afforded by two parallel
narratives running simultaneously—one story told by the text, the other by the
illustrations. At times, text and image can be roughly complementary, each sharing the
same information with the reader. More dynamic pairings of the two media involve text
and image sharing different or even contradictory information for the reader to compare
and contrast.
Allen Say's picture book illustrations are beautifully choreographed. Almost
always created in sequence, prior to any writing, they exemplify some of the best that
visual narrative has to offer within the genre. There is evidence in his illustrations of
painstaking research, reflected in the care lavished on his selection of subject matter,
composition, and control of materials and techniques. Not only are Say's plots and
characters reflective of his personal history and character, so too is his tightly controlled
working method, as well his chosen medium of watercolor. With uniform integrity, Say
approaches every aspect of a book's creation.
Transparent watercolors, unaided by opaque gouaches, pencils, or markers, are
somewhat unforgiving. Mistakes are difficult to mask, requiring a consistent and
sustained focus in a watercolor's execution. Given Say's penchant for detailed
compositions, along with ample evidence of his technical mastery of a demanding
medium, it is easy to admire his paintings. Couple Say's technical expertise with his
convictions regarding theme, plot, and character, and there is much to be gleaned from
this artist.
When looking through any of Say's picture books, perhaps most satisfying and
moving are the heroic dimensions of his stories. This is true even though his characters
are rather ordinary, and their life stories, superficially at least, mundane. On quiet
reflection, there is drama and profound beauty to be discovered in the ordinariness of
day-to-day life. Say nourishes this love of the commonplace and elevates it and
transforms it and makes it art.
Say's love of subject, attention to detail, and sense of challenge when controlling
a difficult art medium are what I strived to duplicate in my own picture book,
accompanying this text. Like each of Allen Say's picture books, mine is an attempt to
reflect on and make concrete a very personal attachment, that being to the island of
Okinawa—its people, customs, and natural beauty. Raised in Kansas, I speak Japanese
haltingly. Japan is as foreign a country as any I have lived in these past twenty years. Yet
I have found in Japan both a home and a family. Perhaps my affinity for Japan has
something to do with an earnestness and guilelessness acquired as a youth in the Midwest,
qualities that are both a curse and a blessing, as they do not resonate within every culture.
However, such character strengths do resonate amongst ordinary Japanese. Along with
hard work, a healthy life style, and sense of community, such strengths make "ordinary"
Japanese so much more than ordinary.
My picture book is not written as a narrative. It has no plot or characters. It is
nonetheless a collection of small "treasures" representative of the island on which I live.
Titled Okinawan O-mivage, the book might be compared to a tattered shoebox full of
those particular odds and ends that a young child finds fascinating and of value: an empty
robin's egg and nest, a shell, a foreign coin, a satiny piece of sea glass. O-mivage are
souvenirs. The word is reverential; and when receiving such a gift, its use by the receiver
communicates respect towards the giver. Its use in the title of my picture book
communicates a similar respect, as well as gratitude for those gifts illustrated in its pages,
and so many others of equal value given to me by the island of Okinawa.
Compelling pictures tell powerful stories, and compelling stories paint vivid
pictures. Thus the author and illustrator Allen Say conveys meaning through both words
and pictures in his books. Born in Yokohama, Japan in 1937, Say was the first child of a
Japanese mother and a Korean father. An orphan, Say's father was one of six children
adopted by a British couple and raised in Shanghai, China. Say's maternal grandparents
immigrated to the United States, living in California at the time of Say's mother's birth.
When Say's mother was a teenager, she and her family moved back to Japan. From the
beginning, this mixture of cross-cultural influences seems to have predestined Say to a
lifetime's search for personal identity, pursued largely through his work as a children's
picture book author.
When he was twelve, Say's parents divorced and Say was sent to Tokyo to live
with his maternal grandmother. "We took to each other like a match to gunpowder, so
eventually I was allowed to live in my own apartment. It was at that point that I sought
out Noro Shinpei to be my master or teacher" (Say, Lore Interview 2). Noro Shinpei was
a well-known cartoonist whom Say greatly admired. Say stayed with Shinpei,
apprenticed to him until the age of sixteen. The training he received was rigorous and
thorough. Say's years with Shinpei were some of his happiest, with Shinpei becoming
Say's spiritual father as well as his mentor. "I didn't realize this until I was an adult. You
see, when I was a boy, I was not just looking for a master to teach me. I was really trying
to replace my father. I was incredibly lucky, because Noro Shinpei recognized I was
searching for a father and he adopted me. To this day, I am still his child" (Say, Loer
Interview 2). Say's years with Shinpei were the first formal art training he was to receive.
Say prefers to create illustrations from first to last in a logical succession,
allowing each story's unique themes and structure to unfold in the process. Confident in
his artistic vision and abilities, Say acknowledges struggling to find the right words when
composing a story's text, and views writing in English as the most difficult part of
creating a children's picture book. As English is Say's second language, it stands to
reason that he would prefer carefully crafted and controlled imagery when first
developing the characters and events of his stories. These images are then supplemented
and extended by the text, generally added after all of his illustrations are completed. This
is not to imply that Say's writing is not a powerful driver of his stories. His works have
impact precisely because of their successful interplay between text and images.
Several of Say's works are autobiographical, drawing upon the lives of his parents
and grandparents as inspiration, as well as his own experiences. His Caldecott Awardwinning illustrated book, Grandfather's Journey (1993), tells the story of his maternal
grandfather leaving Japan for the United States in the early 1900s. Coming from a
wealthy, land-owning family, Say's grandfather was financially secure. And with youth
and a sense of adventure on his side, he traveled across the states, falling in love with and
settling in his adopted land. His grandfather eventually returned to Japan to marry his
childhood sweetheart, and the newlyweds soon settled in San Francisco where Say's
mother, Masako, was later born.
Say's richly illustrated account of his grandfather's life parallels Say's own. Say
left Japan as a young man to settle in the United States. As a young immigrant he
confronted many barriers and hardships, arriving as he did shortly after the end of the
Second World War. While Say grew to love the United States as his grandfather had, his
earliest experiences, in conflict with a new culture, caused Say much confusion and pain.
As an impressionable young man of sixteen, he found himself ridiculed for being both
Japanese and a non-English speaker. This ridicule, coupled with Say's living alone
(separated from both his family and any remnant of Japanese culture), resulted in a deep
sense of isolation and resentment.
The autobiographical nature of Say's work is explored here in detail by analyzing
three of his books: Tea with Milk (1999), Kamishibai Man (2005), and Home of the
Brave (2002). Say's illustrations are often still in mood and action. However, the stillness
of the figures in so many of his images seems to suggest an anticipation of or reflection
on events. Carefully arranged and lit, their mood is nothing if not circumspect, slowing
the movement of the reader through each story. Say's chosen medium is watercolor,
supplying its characteristic luminosity and freshness. There is nothing casual or
spontaneous about Say's imagery. He is a thoughtful and deliberate technician. Neither
are there intrusive details or distracting painterly flourishes or any sense that his
illustrations are overworked. As with much Japanese art, Say's images are reserved and
studied; his colors are harmonious and the interplay between positive and negative spaces
is serenely balanced. Say seems to borrow from both Eastern and Western traditions in
his artwork, carefully selecting and ordering those compositional and technical devices
that best express the inner workings of his characters and the forces driving the action of
each story.
Tea with Milk tells the personal story of Say's mother, May, who was born in
California, grew up in San Francisco, and moved as a teenager with her family back to
Japan. Narrated by the author, the first two illustrations of the book quickly and quietly
communicate volumes about the course of the young woman's life, foreshadowing the
cultural conflicts she was to experience being both a child of the United States and a child
In sepia tones reminiscent of an old family photograph, Say's first illustration for
the book on page five shows the young girl that was to be his mother, standing alone
outside the front door of the family home in California (fig. 1).
Fig. 1. Watercolor illustrationfromAllen Say, Tea with Milk (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999) 5.
Her clean, newly starched white dress is bright in the noonday sun. Her stockings and
shoes are equally pristine. Hands stiff at her sides, legs straight, feet placed firmly
together, the girl looks wary of the camera. Behind her flutters an American flag on a
pole placed to the side of the door. From inside the house, through the one glass pane of
the door, peers the face of an adult. The curtain behind the glass is pulled slightly to one
side with the face of the onlooker partly hidden. A section of tall fence to the right and
squarely placed doormat and neatly trimmed shrubs and wall to the left, along with the
well-ordered architecture of the house, complete the image. The door is a passageway to
be either opened or closed, and the fence and wall are barriers. The watchful parent is a
guard who controls the comings and goings of the little girl. Doors and windows often act
as visual metaphors in Say's work, representing how an individual might see a new
culture or unknown situation, isolated within themselves, looking out. Transplanted to the
United States, the parent behind the door is more a prisoner of their Japanese culture than
is their American-born daughter. The accompanying text speaks of the window to May's
bedroom overlooking the sparkling city, her father's promise to one day take her on a
journey across the shining bay, and the pancakes and muffins she loved eating at the
homes of her friends—treats that she always enjoyed while drinking tea made with milk
and sugar.
The second illustration on page seven abruptly shows an older May. She is now
called by her Japanese name, Masako, in what appears to be another family snapshot of
more recent vintage, painted using more natural colors. Her pose is identical to that in the
first illustration; her arms are stiffly held to the side, her legs are straight, her face is
slightly dour, but for the most part expressionless. Save for the detectable sag to her
shoulders and downward cast to her head, Masako is resigned and shows no emotion.
Wearing a traditional kimono bound tightly around her waist by a thick obi, Masako is
once again gated and controlled by her parents' culture. Behind her, elegant yet spare, is
the wooden architecture of a traditional Japanese home. Hung with shoji and bamboo
screens, a single rectangle of pure sunlight is permitted in an otherwise measured and
confined space. Hers is an elegant and refined prison. The gentle lean of the architectural
elements and Masako to the left add to the image's snapshot quality and immediacy,
underscoring the quiet yet uncomfortable reality of Masako's day-to-day existence in
Japan. As the second illustration mirrors the first, so too does the accompanying text. The
comforts of home and the identity that it provides are again the focus, but here home is
defined by what it is not:
Her new home was drafty, with windows made of paper. She had to wear
kimonos and sit on floors until her legs went numb. No one called her
May, and Masako sounded like someone else's name. There were no more
pancakes or omelets, and fried chicken or spaghetti. I'll never get used to
this place, she thought with a heavy heart. (6)
This mirroring of story elements is common in Say's work. He acknowledges a tendency
to use such repetition in both words and images, to draw parallels or provide contrast,
finding such repetition natural. In answering one of a number of questions submitted to
him by Scholastic readers, Say commented on his tendency to repeat visual and literary
motifs: "It's kind of a rhythmic thing. It feels right, and I'm not sure if I can explain that.
All artistic endeavors—whether painting, music, or writing—rhythm has a big part of it.
Sometimes it just feels right to repeat or echo something" (3).
Illustrations on pages nine, eleven, and thirteen continue to show Masako isolated
with her figure static, her face unmoved. Her clothing continues to provide proof of her
submission, wearing either her beautiful yet restrictive kimono or her typical school
uniform with its militaristic sailor's collar and sharp pleats. With the turn of each page,
dissonance builds between the text and associated images. The text repeatedly hints at
powerful feelings bubbling up beneath the figure of an otherwise tranquil and obedient
Masako, as she continues to bend to Japanese custom and the will of her parents. Finally,
Masako's emotions erupt when her parents' attempt to arrange a marriage for her meets
with Masako's forceful resistance. In the illustration on page thirteen, seated next to her
young suitor on a bench framed by lush gardens, Masako's face and hands betray her
tension. Her body remains erect and motionless. The traditional and highly manicured
Japanese garden, her beautiful yet restrictive kimono, and the forced formality of her
pose, all act as visual metaphors for the cultural and familial limitations imposed on
Masako. The accompanying text expresses her frustration and displeasure: "In the
evening Masako came home fuming. 'Isn't he a charming young man?' her mother asked.
'Charming like a catfish!' Masako answered. 'His family owns the bank where he
works,' her mother said. 'I won't marry a moneylender!' Masako replied" (12).
The next day Masako puts on her brightest dress brought from California and
takes first a bus and then a train to reach Osaka, already a thriving metropolis at the time
of the story in the 1930s. In the illustration on page fifteen showing her departure, Say
presents an uncharacteristically dynamic Masako moving resolutely down a businesslined street while others in more traditional Japanese clothing stop to stare (fig. 2).
Fig. 2. Watercolor illustrationfromAllen Say, Tea with Milk (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999) 15.
The exception among the onlookers is a very young girl in Western dress whose gaze is
drawn to Masako's bright purple handbag, one that she might one day hope to carry. On
her journey to Osaka, the young Masako reflects that her parents returned to Japan so
they would no longer have to feel like foreigners in America. Ironically, Masako, having
been born in America, finds herself a foreigner in Japan. "I should leave home and live
on my own, like an American daughter" (14). Unquestionably American in both attitude
and dress, Masako sets out to make her own way in Osaka, and applies for work in one of
the city's newest and most exclusive department stores. The store is like a gleaming
palace to Masako, Art Deco in every detail, and stands in stark contrast to the small, more
traditional storefronts seen lining the street in fig.2. In the illustration of the building on
page seventeen, Say uses as his inspiration Osaka's Daimaru flagship store, built in the
1930s and modeled after European and American architecture of the time. Entering the
store, Masako is amazed that she is still in Japan, so Western is its feel.
Intent on finding a job, Masako is interviewed by a store supervisor who shows
surprise that Masako is able to drive a car. Masako explains, "Many women drive in
America" (20). For all her insistence and obvious talents, Masako is rewarded with a job
driving an elevator cage up and down, bowing to customers, and announcing the floors.
"She rented a room in a rooming house for university students. Her parents were not
happy, especially her mother. It was shameful for ladies to work, she said. Masako did
not tell her she was an elevator girl" (20). Accompanying this passage, the illustration on
page twenty-one shows Masako standing at attention, one of three young women
identically dressed and coiffed, each beside their own elevator door (fig. 3).
v -%
Fig. 3 Watercolor illustration from Allen Say, Tea with Milk (Boston- Houghton Mifflin, 1999) 21.
They are ornaments, not unlike the many decorative light fixtures and bronze relief
panels that line the store's interior against which they stand.
Were she Japanese, Masako might have happily continued with such
unchallenging work, pleased to conform to tradition and custom as they defined a
woman's role in society at the time. However, Masako was more American than Japanese
in temperament and outlook. Growing bored of her work as an elevator operator, she asks
if there were anything else she might do instead. Her supervisor offers her the alternative
job of standing at the entrance of the department store, bowing to customers as they enter
and welcoming them. Dismayed over the options given her, Masako decides to remain at
her elevator job.
One day Masako inadvertently seizes on an important opportunity. Finding a
British family unable to have their questions answered while shopping, Masako offers
them her help. The illustration of the encounter on page twenty-three shows Masako
smiling for the first time in the story, genuinely happy for the opportunity to again speak
English and truly engage others in conversation. Recognizing the value of Masako's
English skills, Masako's supervisor immediately creates a new job for her. Wearing a
kimono, Masako becomes the store's guide for foreign businessmen. "How funny, she
thought, that she had to look like a Japanese lady to speak English. The odd thing was
that the kimono did not seem so uncomfortable now" (24). Though still physically
restrictive, Masako no longer feels her "uniform" is a hindrance, symbolizing as it now
does her advancement to a job far more demanding of her skills and intelligence, and far
more satisfying.
After some weeks in her new position, Masako notices a young Asian man join
her tour of the store two days in a row. On the third morning he appears again and she
speaks to him in Japanese. His response in English takes her by surprise. He explains that
he attended an English school in Shanghai as a young man, and introduces himself as
Joseph. Joseph was to be Allen Say's father. A Korean orphan adopted and raised by an
English missionary family living in Shanghai, Joseph was as much a foreigner in Japan as
Masako. Though the details of Joseph's background are not immediately nor completely
revealed in the story, it was a shared sense that they were both outsiders living in Japan
that brought Allen Say's parents, Masako and Joseph, together.
Following their introduction, Masako and Joseph go to a nearby cafe where
Joseph orders his tea with milk and sugar. Masako, asking to be called May, takes her tea
with milk and sugar as well. This simple act of drinking tea recalls fond memories of
meals shared with American friends and their families in California, and a time when
Masako was called May and drank her tea with milk and sugar. In the illustration on page
twenty-seven, May and Joseph are framed by a sunlit window of the cafe, both in
Western dress. Another young Japanese couple, wearing traditional kimonos, sits nearby.
As they talk, the young woman wearing the kimono demurs, holding her hand to cover
her mouth to laugh or otherwise hide her expression and true feelings from her partner.
This is a gesture of feminine reserve and is still common among Japanese women of a
certain age. (The same gesture can be seen in fig. 2, showing a young mother's shock in
seeing May's brightly colored, Western dress.) In contrast, May and Joseph sit removed
at a distance, smiling and laughing and happy to share and engage each other openly
without such formality.
That conversation shared over a cup of tea with milk was the beginning of their
friendship. Throughout the summer, May and Joseph would often meet after work and on
weekends. One night in late fall they have dinner at a favorite restaurant. Noticing that
Joseph is not eating his food and doing little talking, May asks him what is wrong. He
answers that the bank that he works for is transferring him to an office in Yokohama.
Walking in silence until they reach the Kobe harbor, the two are shown in the illustration
on page thirty-one standing hand-in-hand, their backs to the reader, looking across the
water at a large, brightly lit passenger ship a short distance away. Referring to the ship,
Joseph asks May if she is thinking about returning to California. He then shares his story
of being one of six adopted children, "'.. .all scattered now and all looking for a home.
May, home isn't a place or a building that's ready-made and waiting for you, in America
or anywhere else'" (30). Separately, neither is comfortable living in Japan for neither
feels rooted to the culture or bound by the wishes of their families. Joseph's ties to his
family seem tenuous at best, and May looks longingly across the water recalling the ship
that brought her to Japan from her one true home in California. '"You are right,' she said.
'I'll have to make it for myself.' 'What about us?' Joseph said. 'We can do it together.'
'Yes,' May said, nodding" (30).
Together May and Joseph made Japan their home, settling in Yokohama. Allen
Say was their first born. On the final page of the book, accompanied by an illustration of
May and Joseph showing a happy young couple in Western dress, engaging the reader,
the author recalls how his father and mother always spoke in English to each other at
home and Japanese to him. His mother occasionally wore a kimono, but never got used to
sitting on the floor for very long. This concluding image is like a snapshot in nature,
mirroring the first. Bringing the story full circle, Say writes, "All this happened a long
time ago, but even today I always drink my tea with milk and sugar" (32).
All of Say's stories incorporate the theme of self-discovery. Tea with Milk is selfreflective, as the reader learns on its final page where the author speaks in the present and
in the first-person, presenting as he does a personal family photo of his happy, youthful
parents. Say's words suggest that by examining the early themes and events of his
parents' lives, he grew to more deeply understand and appreciate their paths and his.
Even seemingly insignificant childhood experiences alongside parents and peers can
profoundly shape an individual. Thus the author's taste for tea with milk mirrors that of
both parents, extending across countries and cultures and generations to unite them.
Along with Grandfather's Journey (1993) and The Ink-keeper's Apprentice
(1979), Tea with Milk is one of a handful of autobiographical works by Say. Derived
from these more personal works, the theme of self-discovery is found throughout much of
his writing. Congruently, themes of alienation, dislocation and the struggle required to
overcome such negativity—struggle through which self-understanding and selfacceptance are achieved—are of similar importance to Say. Tea with Milk encapsulates
all these major themes. Thrown into a profoundly different culture, May was forced to
create a unique place for herself within Japanese society, reconciling her American
upbringing with Japanese tradition and cultural strictures. Say's mother was an unusual
Japanese woman for her time, having been raised in America and a fluent English
speaker. While Say's mother moved as a teenager from California to Japan, Say's
experience was a mirror image of hers, Say having moved as a teenager from Japan to
California. Even Say's maternal grandfather found the time that he lived in the United
States to be a touchstone of his existence. Though he eventually moved back with his
family to settle in Japan, his grandfather always longed to return to his American home.
Given less emphasis, but still important in Tea with Milk, is its theme addressing
restrictive female roles in Japanese culture. Rather than attend college, Masako's family
feels it more appropriate for a young lady of Masako's station to be trained in the arts of
the tea ceremony, calligraphy, and flower arranging; the family going so far as to attempt
an arranged marriage for Masako using a matchmaker. Rebelling, Masako strikes out on
her own, moving to the bustling city of Osaka in hopes of finding her own job and an
apartment, claiming independence from her parents. However, even in progressive Osaka,
Masako encounters many of the same cultural restrictions. Despite her skills and
resourcefulness, Masako is denied promotion within the department store until she
demonstrates an initiative uncharacteristic of Japanese women at the time. There is irony
in the metaphor of Masako's first job of "driving" an elevator, as if she might actually
determine its course the way she might a car's. Implied in the text, Japanese women of
that era were not empowered to drive, much less direct the course of their own lives.
Initially, her supervisor's only expectations are that Masako be pretty, polite, and
reserved. Recognizing her talents and their worth, he finally agrees to give her greater
authority and freedom in her dual roles as guide and translator, serving foreign
businessmen and dignitaries.
Today's flight attendants on Japan's major air carriers are mostly women,
uniformly youthful and beautiful; likewise the young women who bow and greet
customers as they enter Japan's larger department stores; likewise the tellers at Japanese
banks. There remains a pervasive sense that feminine youth and beauty are necessary
fixtures for presenting a best face at every level of Japanese culture. Conversely, what
does not fit the mold in terms of age, beauty, or sexual orientation is often shown
unflatteringly and in extreme caricature, both in mainstream television and movies.
Social and political activism, which might help speed change, is discouraged. Women
and minorities of all kinds do themselves no favors by remaining unorganized and
submissive. Tradition, an ingrained respect for authority, and a seeming social and
political need to maintain the status quo continue to hold a tight grip on the Japanese
The bond between storyteller and audience—a relationship that is millennia old—
is one theme of Say's Kamishibai Man. Another is the price paid for technological
progress in our modern world. These two themes are interwoven in tender fashion,
connecting characters across generations, and connecting the main character's past with
his present. Though not autobiographical, the story does recall fond memories of Say's
childhood, memories of kamishibai or "paper theater."
Kamishibai (kah-mee-she-bye) men once traveled throughout Japan's cities and
countryside on bicycles, each mounted with a portable theater in the form of a wooden
box. Drawers in the box held homemade candies. The theater consisted of handillustrated cardboard panels used in serial fashion, so that audiences came repeatedly to
buy candy and hear the next episode of each story. From the afterword of Kamishibai
Man, written by Japanese folklore scholar Tara McGowan, comes the following:
Kamishibai is a poor man's theater, and it flourished during a time when
Japan experienced extreme financial hardship. In the 1930s, Japan
suffered an economic depression that sent many people onto the streets
looking for a way to live from one day to the next, and kamishibai offered
artists and storytellers a meager living. During and after World War II,
kamishibai became an ever more integral part of the society as a form of
entertainment that could be transported into bomb shelters and even
devastated neighborhoods. At this time, it was entertainment as much for
adults as for children. (32)
With the passage of time and increasing economic prosperity, kamashibai became less
popular. The growing availability of television, which was initially referred to as denki
("electric") kamishibai, made traditional kamishibai seem backwards and crude.
Nevertheless, today's manga and anime have their roots in kamishibai.
Kamishibai is unique in that it is performance narrative, relying on the talents of
the storyteller to extemporaneously emote and embellish in response to audience reaction.
"A good kamishibai man ran the gamut of voices and facial expressions for his paper
plays, from mincing female tones to gruff samurai expostulations" (Nash 17). Kamishibai
was popular well before the war; and it was extensively used by the Japanese government
for propaganda purposes during the conflict. After Japan's defeat, kamishibai's presence
and impact exploded throughout the country. During the American occupation, Japan was
a demoralized and impoverished nation. Tokyo was a city of street stalls and open sewers.
Extensively firebombed, much of the city remained in rubble well after the war ended.
Millions of its residents were homeless and without jobs. Day-to-day existence was a
struggle. The slightest diversion was eagerly and warmly welcomed. Kamishibai,
plentiful on street corners and in parks, provided much needed relief during this
especially bleak time:
In the years after the war, up to five million people a day, including adults
but mainly children, watched kamishibai shows. With the high rate of
unemployment, many demobilized servicemen became kamishibaiya.
There were forty production houses and fifty thousand kamishibai
storytellers in Tokyo and Kansai, the western region of Japan. (Nash 234)
What the Saturday matinee was to Americans during the hardships of the Great
Depression and World War II, kamishibai was to the Japanese—a place to dream, a
means of escape.
Allen Say attended many kamishibai performances as a child, an integral part of
his youth during and after the war living in Tokyo. He first conceived his picture book of
this unique art form in 1972, but initially thought the concept too complex, requiring too
much explanation, and thus he bogged down (Say, Foote Interview). More than thirty
years after his initial attempts to put the story of kamishibai to paper, Say published
Kamishibai Man. The wait was worth it.
Say's is a simple story, artfully illustrated, which contrasts two pictorial styles
reflecting life in today's Tokyo alongside images representing an old man's wistful
memories of the city and its children in a time long past. The arc of the story begins much
like an old Japanese fable with an elderly childless but loving couple. Living in the
pristine countryside outside of today's Tokyo, Jiichan and Baachan are shown in the
book's first illustration on page five, sitting quietly surrounded by the few belongings in
their tidy, wood-framed home, set against the peaceful backdrop of a small garden, green
hills, and blue sky (fig. 4).
Fig. 4 Watercolor illustrationfromAllen Say, Kamishibai Man (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005) 5.
Leaning against the house is a bicycle, covered and protected by a woven bamboo screen.
jiichan and baachan mean "grandpa" and "grandma," respectively, and are used as terms
of endearment as well as respect. While Baachan sits contentedly, a cool drink by her
side and a fan in her hand, Jiichan sits with his back to her and seems poised to rise up
from the edge of the porch where he is sitting, having come to some decision. Baachan
comments that she has not heard Jiichan speak a word in three days. Jiichan replies that
he has been missing going on his rounds. Baachan asks how many years it has been.
Uncertain, Jiichan simply says that it has been quite a while. It is unknown to the reader
what the two are talking about. Baachan continues the conversation by offering to make
candies for Jiichan's rounds, and Jiichan politely accepts.
The book's second illustration on page seven shows Jiichan from a distance riding
his bicycle across a small, wooden bridge and the calm waters of a river. Strapped to the
back of the bicycle is a large, canvas-covered box. Terraced farmland and mist-shrouded
hills fall away in the background. It is morning. Speaking to the bridge, Jiichan reflects
that it is old and rickety, but still going strong after so many years, not unlike Jiichan
himself. No doubt Jiichan crossed the bridge daily as a younger man. Throughout his
illustrations, Say uses space to wonderful effect. In this image the beautiful countryside is
expansive and reflective of the emotions of the character. The natural environment
becomes an emotional extension of the small figure of Jiichan, amplifying his good
feelings and sense of well-being. At other times, Say uses such large space for opposite
effect, isolating both character and emotion, showing them divorced from the larger
world. To emphasize his contentment, Jiichan ".. .began to hum a tune that his mother
used to sing when he was a small boy" (6). For Jiichan, this trip back in time along a
familiar route is full of happy memories.
Jiichan's ease does not last long. Soon he enters the bustling city of Tokyo along
what were once familiar streets, now greatly changed. In the illustration on page nine,
Jiichan, on his bicycle, is once again seen from a distance, a small figure in an
overwhelming cityscape. Riding down a narrow street toward the reader, a large truck
looms close behind him, its driver barely discernable through its darkened windshield.
Jiichan leans forward, pushing hard against the bicycle's peddles in an attempt to move
out of the way of the honking, impatient truck. The rectilinear structure of the truck, in
size and placement, mimics that of the wooden bridge in the previous illustration; but
gone are the charms of the countryside. Gone are the bright, clear hues of field and
mountain, replaced by the dark, dirty colors and prison-like confines typical of Japan's
large cities. A disoriented Jiichan reflects that he is in another country altogether. Having
begun his journey happily traveling back in time, Jiichan now finds himself suddenly and
uncomfortably thrust into the present.
Pulling into a vacant lot, he stops and gets off his bicycle. Shown in the
illustration on page eleven, he removes the canvas cover from the wooden box. For the
reader it is still a mystery what is in the wooden box or why Jiichan has made such a long
and arduous trip into the city. A small, lonely figure set against a monolithic, concrete
wall, Jiichan's isolation is palpable. No longer are there grasses and trees and running
rivers, and only the smallest sliver of grey sky remains to be seen. Looking around him,
Jiichan recognizes one familiar site—a noodle shop. But all that once surrounded the
shop is now gone. '"Can this be? There's that old noodle shop.. .used to be the only
building here.. .that and a nice park all around. Now look at all these shops and
restaurants. They chopped down all those beautiful trees for them. Who needs to buy so
many things and eat so many different foods?'" (10). There is an expressed reverence of
nature in many of Say's works. Here the disappearance of the park and its trees is clearly
a sad devolution. Contrasted with the light-filled countryside of Jiichan's home, and his
simple yet happy existence with Baachan, Say implicitly questions the value of what we
so readily and uncritically accept as progress.
Turning his attention to the wooden box, Jiichan begins to hum again, smiling as
he looks down on the drawer full of candies so lovingly prepared by Bachaan the night
before. In the illustration on page thirteen, the reader sees in close-up one of many
illustrated story cards slid into place within its butai ("miniature wooden proscenium"),
ready for the telling. Although the reader cannot yet fully understand the reasons for the
wooden box, the candies, the painted cards, or Jiichan's trip, visual and textual clues have
begun to hint at their purpose.
In the illustrations on pages fourteen and fifteen, the grey of the concrete wall
softens as both images focus more closely on Jiichan and the wooden box. On page
fourteen, "kamishibai man" first appears in the text. Jiichan pulls wooden blocks from the
top drawer of the box. He hits the blocks together sharply with a loud crack, calling
children from the nearby neighborhood to come and get their sweets and listen to his
stories. The illustration on page fifteen is remarkable for its simplicity and effectiveness
(fig. 5).
Fig. 5. Watercolor illustration from Allen Say, Kamishibai Man (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005) 15.
It is a transitional image, incorporating two distinct pictorial styles, connecting two very
different sections of the story and two different periods of Jiichan's life and the life of the
city. In close-up, the reader sees the realistically drawn butai mounted on the box. Behind
is the neutral gray of the concrete wall that suggests an indeterminate space and time.
Within the butai there appears a new image and style of painting. It is not of Momotaro
("Peach Boy"), seen filling the frame on page thirteen. It is a different image showing
happy children drawn in simple, cartoon fashion, eagerly running towards the reader.
'"Ah, yes, I can see you now, all your bright faces, clasping coins in your little hands, so
happy to hear my clappers, so happy to see your kamishibai man!'" (15). It is a memory,
a fond memory. The reader and Jiichan are transported through the butai back in time.
The text and illustrations that follow, from page sixteen through page twenty-five,
recount Jiichan's youth as a kamishibai man. Their simplicity of surface and color mirror
traditional kamishibai style, creating the foundation for the story within a story that
Jiichan tells. As a group, the format of the illustrations changes from vertical to
horizontal—a simple but effective unifying device. Trees and shrubs reappear and the
city recedes, as a large group of children are shown crowded around a much younger
Jiichan and his paper theater. The colors of the illustrations are bright and clear. Heavy
outlines are used, as they would be in traditional kamishibai illustrations. Shading is
diminished, further flattening the figures. Background elements in several of the
illustrations from this sequence are simplified or largely eliminated. A small boy stands
apart from the larger group of children, and is referred to by Jiichan as the one who never
has any money. The boy wears traditional wooden geta ("clogs") while all the other
children have more expensive, colorful sneakers. There are patches on the boy's clothing.
Jiichan starts his storytelling with the tale of Momotaro. (Born from a giant peach,
Momotaro was adopted and raised by an old man and his wife who had no children,
mirroring the lives of Jiichan and Baachan.) After Jiichan finishes his stories and all of
the children have eaten their sweets and gone home, the one small boy remains. As he
packs up his theater, Jiichan asks the boy if he would like some candy. The boy says he
does not like candy and quickly runs away.
One evening while traveling home, Jiichan sees a crowd of people gathered in
front of a shop, "...staring at something called television" (19). Jiichan is curious, too,
but dismisses the moving pictures—which are jerky and blurry—as uninteresting.
However, it is not long after that Jiichan begins to see television antennas sprouting from
rooftops,'".. .like weeds in springtime. And the more they grew, the fewer boys and girls
came out to listen to my stories'" (20). Traveling around familiar neighborhoods, the
children start to act as though they don't know Jiichan anymore, and he questions how
the children can like the blurry television pictures better than his beautiful paintings.
'"Even so, I went on clacking my clappers, and one day a little girl poked her head out
the window and shushed me. Imagine, a little girl shushing me. The kamishibai man was
making too much noise'" (22). The illustration accompanying this text shows the little
girl at the window and Jiichan standing outside with his clappers. Behind the little girl sit
two young boys engrossed in their television program, which Jiichan obviously disturbed.
Doubting bis abilities as a storyteller, Jiichan is shown in the illustration on page
twenty-three sitting on a park bench. It is autumn and the leaves have fallen from the
trees and are scattered around his feet. The light that permeates the image is warm, the
colors soft. '"Then that boy came, the boy who didn't like candies. 'Why aren't you
watching television?' I asked. 'I don't like television!' he said. 'But you like my stories,'
I said, and he nodded his little head'" (23). The little boy is shown dressed in drab grey
shorts and jacket, patched at the seat and at the elbows. His family obviously cannot
afford a television, much less candy. For him, Jiichan's stories are an escape from an
otherwise difficult existence. When Jiichan asks him his favorite story, the boy replies
that it is "Little One Inch," the story of a brave little boy only one inch tall. As the child
listens raptly, Jiichan acts out the story. The boy's mouth is shown open in amazement,
his eyes bright. All the while, the boy is focused on the face of Jiichan, ignoring the
pictures. Clearly, the child's connection is with the storyteller and not to any props or
candies used as enticements. Finishing the story, Jiichan offers the little boy some sweets.
But the child has already turned and is running away, not once looking back. '"That was
the last time I saw that boy. That was the last day I was a kamishibai man...'" (25).
'"I was that boy!' a loud voice cried out" (26). The text and image on pages
twenty-six and twenty-seven reveal that Jiichan's reminiscences have been overhead by
dozens of passersby who have gathered to listen, much as children had once come to
listen to Jiichan and buy his sweets so many years before. Reverting back to the more
realistic style of illustration seen at the beginning of the story, Jiichan is shown roused
from his reverie and brought back to the present. In the illustration on page twenty-seven,
he stands beside his bicycle and paper theater as the onlookers smile and applaud. His
back to the reader, we see Jiichan as we might see a performer on the stage, looking from
the wings—backlit by the afternoon sun pouring through an opening in the buildings
(suggestive of footlights), facing his happy and appreciative audience, preparing to take
his bows. "He started to say something and the people began to clap their hands. He took
a deep bow, and the applause got louder" (26). Here were Jiichan's children all grown,
captivated by Jiichan's story, transported back in time and allowed to again experience
the magic of the storyteller.
Tallest among those cheering and applauding is a young man holding a video
camera. He approaches Jiichan in the following illustration on page twenty-nine, and
accepts from the kamishibai man one of Baachan's homemade sweets (fig. 6).
Fig. 6. Watercolor illustrationfromAllen Say, Kamishibai Man (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005) 29.
The city is still a presence, but it has warmed and softened and is no longer harsh and
confining. A happy crowd again gathers around Jiichan and his bicycle with its wooden
box. The young man's open-mouthed delight while accepting the candy mirrors that of
the young boy's in Jiichan's reverie, seen on page twenty-four. Also similar in the two
illustrations are Jiichan's expressive mouth and hands as he makes the offer. It is not
clear from the text whether the man who interrupts Jiichan's reverie is the same as the
young man holding the video camera and accepting Jiichan's offer of candy. Nor is it
entirely clear from the text whether the young man is the same small boy whom Jiichan
read to so many years before. Yet it seems that Jiichan's gift of candy, once refused by
the boy, has at long last been accepted. The boy is now a grown man and a storyteller of a
different sort, with his own storytelling "box" at his side—the video camera.
The concluding illustration on page thirty-one shows Jiichan and Baachan back at
home, dressed in their kimonos, seated at their dining table on the floor. There is
symmetry and balance to their placement and an ease in their postures. Baachan cradles a
cup of soup. Jiichan bows slightly over his meal, giving thanks. Though spare, the small
room is warm and tidy. To the right of the image is a low cabinet on top of which sits a
television, its screen dark. Relegated to the edge of the image and heavily cropped, it is
made to seem insignificant. In contrast to the very first illustration of the story with its
slight physical and emotional distance and asymmetry, the couple now quietly enjoys
their moment together, facing each other across the table, their happiness and
contentment readily apparent. Mirroring the conversation between the two from the first
page, the following text accompanies the illustration:
It was dark when he got home. Baachan was watching the
evening news. The kamishibai man was the featured story.
"I see you had a busy day," she said.
"It was a good day." Jiichan nodded.
"Will you be going out tomorrow?"
"Umm, yes. And the day after."
"Then you need more sweets."
"That would be very nice. Umm, could you make it twice the
usual amount?"
"I'll see if I have enough sugar," she said, and shut the
television off (30).
For all the modern world's distractions, nothing can replace honest and direct
human interactions for their ability to foster genuine understanding and appreciation
between people. And from that understanding and appreciation can grow a life-long love,
just as that realized between Jiichan and Baachan. Such relationships do not come
without effort and self-sacrifice. But passion for one's work, and the support and
generosity of spirit drawn from one's family and friends, can make such sacrifice part of
the reward and thus a privilege to endure.
In Kamishibai Man, the art of the storyteller is passed along to a new generation,
as represented by the young newsman. Perhaps storytelling was the young man's only
salvation, growing up in post-war Japan—once so small and poor and yet so proud. As in
Tea with Milk, the story of Kamishibai Man comes full circle. The gifts of the
storyteller—healing and uniting—are returned to Jiichan and Baachan by way of their
giving spirits. And while Tea with Milk deals with the successful reconciliation of
differing cultures in the young lives of May and Joseph, Kamishibai Man focuses on the
reconciliation of past and present in the life of the older Jiichan.
Because of the brevity of his writing style and its generally linear flow, and the
matter-of-fact clarity and the often static quality of his illustrations, Say's stories might
seem straightforward to the point of being simplistic and dull. Yet within an apparently
simple picture book structure there is an emotional arc to the lives of his characters that
makes Say's works compelling and consistently satisfying. There is fluidity to Jiichan's
memories and emotions throughout his story that easily moves the reader forwards and
backwards in time, sampling both the happiness of Jiichan's past, along with his
dissatisfaction and confusion over the present. Similarly, May in Tea with Milk finds
herself frequently reflecting on her earlier and happier life in America, comparing it with
the restrictive Japanese culture in which she is suddenly forced to live and make her way.
Say's illustrations not only reiterate but amplify this dynamic of his writing. For Say,
there is complexity and drama in ordinary lives that is worth sharing. "As a youngster, I
didn't like science fiction stories staged in what you call the material world. As a
storyteller, I try to present believable situations in that world, which is far more fantastic
than any fantasy world. The main audience for my work is the child in me" (Say, Pang
Interview 2).
Home of the Brave is a seemingly cryptic story involving a nameless, faceless
main character—a young Asian American man. It is ambiguous as to time and place, but
loaded with symbolic, dreamlike imagery. The book was created in response to Say's
attending an exhibition of photographs of World War II internment camps in the United
States, camps which held more than 120,000 Japanese Americans as part of the nation's
largest forced relocation, many of them children. And while Say had no first-hand
experience of the camps, the resulting picture book became, yet again, another of his
personal journeys.
The book's title derives from the four words that complete each of the four
stanzas of "The Star-Spangled Banner." Given the injustice of the internment camps, it is
ironic that the first stanza of the song, the one that is familiar to nearly every American
citizen, ends in a question:
O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
Sadly, the poetry of such rhetoric was lost on the patriotic Japanese Americans
imprisoned by their own countrymen. Which United States citizens showed the greatest
measure of bravery during World War II under duress? There is little doubt how Allen
Say would answer. However, true to his vision for the book, no background information
detailing the existence of the internment camps is shared with the reader. Twice the word
"camp" is used in the story, and only twice. Once it is used in reference to Asian families
being held against their will, and again when referring to Native Americans isolated on
their reservations. In each case, the references are oblique. There is no mention of an
ongoing war, or of Japanese Americans, or of Native Americans, per se. Say's intent was
that the reader's response to the story be as visceral and personal as possible. Specifics,
such as dates, locations, names, and numbers, might interfere with such a purely
emotional response.
Say's writing is spare and nonlinear. Not only is the order of events in the story
uncertain, so too is their nature, real or imagined. The story begins with a young man in a
kayak, starting his and our journey on a rushing river at the mouth of a gorge. "He stood
still and listened to the river, then slowly pushed out onto the dark water" (4). The
accompanying illustration on page five shows the man from a distance, standing beside
the waters of the river and his boat. Sunlight shines down upon the figure and the boat,
small and vulnerable against the dark and massive rock face of the gorge, looming behind.
Ripples turn to waves, and waves to rapids. The roar of the river grows louder, and then
the river falls away. "The man closed his eyes and held his breath" (6). The nameless
adventurer could be any one of us. Denying him a specific identity, Say allows the reader
to fill the void, projecting their own hopes and fears upon him. The boat overturns in a
waterfall; the churning rapids strip away the man's life jacket, helmet, boat and paddle.
Directionless and unprotected, the man is swept into an underground cave. "His strength
and hope fading, he imagined seeing a faint light" (8). The faint light is symbolic of an
emotional awakening. In the accompanying illustration on page nine, the man is
submerged, water covering his mouth and chin, revealing only his slightly flattened nose,
almond-like eyes, straight black hair, and dark complexion. Though clearly Asian, in no
illustration is the man's face completely shown. His visage is never whole to the reader,
nor, perhaps, to himself. Instead, it is glimpsed in fragments. The story's protagonist, he
remains nameless and literally unseen. The river on which he travels might symbolize his
evolving emotional state; the waterfall, his baptism or ritual purification; the faint but
growing light, his emotional or spiritual salvation or growing awareness.
The underground river slows and widens. The source of light is revealed as a
square, timber-framed hole, high above in the roof of the cave, accessible by a ladder
from the river's bank. Climbing the ladder, the young man emerges into a sun-bleached
desert; adobe Indian ruins appear in the far distance. This is an American landscape, but
the text gives no clue as to its specific location. The story's linking of text and image is
deliberately incongruous. Much has to be inferred, not unlike the interpretation of a
disjointed dream. Home of the Brave is replete with symbolism. The reader's
understanding of the story is likely to come slowly, uncomfortably, and with some effort.
Say supplies no ready or easy answers.
Two dark figures crouch low against an adobe wall. As he approaches, the young
man is surprised to see that the figures are two small children (fig. 7).
**i9>« -i
Fig. 7. Watercolor illustrationfromAllen Say, Home of the Brave (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002) 15.
"What are you doing here?" he asked.
"Waiting to go home," the girl answered.
"How did you get here? He asked.
"From the camp," she said.
"And where is your home?" he asked.
They did not answer.
He leaned down and looked at the tags on their coats.
He could not make out the writing. (14)
A search for home again appears as a central theme. The desert, arid and lifeless, is not
the place for these children to grow and thrive. It is not a suitable home. In such
inhospitable places, the federal government established its internment camps, well away
from areas of industrial or agricultural importance. The children are profoundly aware of
their loss of home and community. Though unnamed, they are not without identity. In the
accompanying illustration on page fifteen, Say's faithful rendering of their careworn
faces relates the pain and uncertainty in their lives, representing all children of the camps.
Say's illustration is taken directly from Dorothea Lange's Photograph of
Members of the Mochida Family Awaiting Evacuation, 05/08/1942. At the time, Lange
was working for the Department of the Interior's War Relocation Authority. The
identification tags were worn to aid in keeping family members together through different
phases of the evacuation. It is obvious that Lange's photograph was central to the
inspiration for Home of the Brave, as the motif of the paper nametags is repeated several
times throughout the book. Like merchandise, family members were each identified with
a hand-written note tied to their clothing with a piece of string. What is significant about
the original photograph is the fact that seven of the nine family members are either
children or young adults in their teens or early twenties. From the Encyclopedia of
Arkansas Historv and Culture, the article "Rohwer Relocation Center" describes in detail
the Japanese American inhabitants at Rohwer Internment Camp in Desha County,
Arkansas: "Sixty-six percent were Nisei—American citizens—with thirty-nine percent
under the age of nineteen. There were 2,483 school age children—a full thirty-one
percent of the total population." Some estimates place the percentage of children held in
all the camps even higher, at upwards of fifty percent. Sadly, it is too true of conflict that
the young and vulnerable suffer most, wearing the scars of their experiences the longest.
Together they are lost. The young man and the children walk into the desert and
are engulfed in a sandstorm. In the midst of the storm, the young man sees lights in the
distance. The three walk towards them. Long, uniform rows of tarpaper shacks appear,
sandwiched between the barren ground and the dark, forbidding mountains behind, their
open doors and windows strangely dark. Separately, the young man enters one of the
empty and seemingly abandoned shacks and discovers, on its bare wood floor, a paper
nametag tied with string. Picking it up, he is stricken to see his own name written on it.
Then, startled by a sound, he runs from the building. The illustration accompanying these
events on page twenty-one is representative of Say's use of light and color throughout the
book, as well as his use of dreamlike symbol, and his fragmentary representation of the
face and identity of the story's protagonist (fig. 8).
Fig. 8. Watercolor illustrationfromAllen Say, Home of the Brave (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002) 21.
Indian ruins, the strange appearance in the desert of nameless children,
disorientating sandstorms, phantom lights, desolate landscapes, abandoned buildings, and
ghost-like artifacts—Say has created a haunted world. In the image, there appears the
partial reflection of the young man, seen in the glass pane of a window. The shadow of
the young man, framed by the desert light streaming through the open door, draws the
reader into the otherwise dark interior of the shack. Incongruously, the window across
from the door remains pitch-black, suggesting the dualities of day and night, waking and
dreaming, present and past, known and unknown. Between the man's shadow and
phantom-like reflection rests the nametag. Though only partially shown, the young man's
face in reflection seems fearful and alert, looking down towards the floor. The viewpoint
of the reader and the young man are one and the same. The reader stands where the
young man stands. The emptiness of the shack and the partial reflection in the
windowpane are dreamlike in their symbolism. It is an emptiness that is symbolic of
fruitless labor or the incompleteness of the young man's life and of ours. The reflection is
symbolic of the need for self-examination or reconciliation and self-acceptance. It is
certain that the young man and the reader are on a journey of self-discovery. Such a
journey, by definition, is one of becoming. There is no set course or predetermined end.
Colors used throughout the book are restricted, with steely blue, gray, and ochre
complementing the story's somber message. Home of the Brave is not as visually inviting
as Say's other books. Running from the empty shack, the young man confronts a large
group of children who stand and stare at him. In unison they open their mouths, chanting
'"Take us home!'" (22). A leaden sky hangs above the group of small, Asian faces.
Impenetrable gray mountains rise up behind them. The children's drab grey, brown, and
black coats merge as one, each coat tied with a nametag. A multitude, they are of a single
mind and purpose. Only the collective lightness of their faces, and a narrow strip of white
light settling along the tops of the mountains, alleviates the darkness and overall
oppressiveness of the image. Strong contrasts in value characterize the book's
Again there is an unexpected event, as described in the text on page twenty-two
and illustrated on page twenty-five. Two watchtowers loom in the darkening sky, and
from them a booming voice orders the children to '"Get back inside!'" (22). The children
begin to run while the young man shouts for the men in the watchtowers to shut off their
searchlights, slashing across the children like swords. Blinded by the searchlights, the
young man staggers after the children. A shaft of light, which early in the story represents
the young man's salvation, directing him from the subterranean river to the desert above,
is here invested with menace when trained by the men in the watchtowers on the children
below. The group of children, large and clearly seen in the foreground of the illustration
on page twenty-three, are suddenly thrust deep into the background in the illustration on
page twenty-five. Like so many small insects, they scatter ahead of the beams from the
searchlights. The figure of the young man, clutching the nametag, remains large in the
foreground. Proportionally, he is a match to the towers and lights as he yells, attempting
to fend them off. By contrast, the children are tiny and helpless.
As quickly as the children appear, they vanish. As soon as the young man can
again see, they are gone, as are the tarpaper shacks, as are the watchtowers with their
searchlights. In the illustration on page twenty-seven it is no longer night, as bright
sunlight rakes across a landscape of adobe ruins. Repeated and unexpected changes in
lighting, and seemingly sudden shifts in time of day, reinforce the disjointed and
dreamlike quality of the narrative. Alone, the man stands above a round pit lined with
stones, ".. .like an arena" (26). In the middle is a square hole in the ground framed with
stones and timber. From it descends a ladder. Next to the hole lies a single nametag.
Picking it up, the man reads a name, a girl's name, the same as his mother's. He now
remembers that he had been named after his mother's father. As he puts the nametag in
his pocket, along with the one taken from the abandoned shack, he believes he hears
children's voices rising from the hole. He climbs down the ladder to the bottom to find
complete darkness. Calling to the children, he hears only the echoes of his own voice
answering. Overcome with weariness, the young man falls asleep.
The arena-like ruin, absent its roof, described and pictured in the accompanying
illustration on page twenty-seven, is a Pueblo Indian kiva. Its function was originally that
of a ceremonial room and communal gathering place. Traditionally, kivas were entered
by way of a ladder placed through a hole in their roof. Say's variation has the ladder
descending through a hole in the floor of the structure, connecting to a subterranean space
beneath. As it relates to Pueblo Indian religious belief, the sipapu ("small hole or
depression") in the floor of the kiva symbolically connects upper and lower worlds,
representing the origin of the tribe and where life first emerged. In Home of the Brave,
this hole is a portal between past and present, waking and dreaming, conscious and
unconscious. The young man's recollection that his grandfather's name was identical to
his own is his first true step in reconciling with his past, passing through that portal. The
pairing of the two nametags in the young man's pocket—one his mother's, one his
maternal grandfather's—symbolically reunites him with his family and their collective
history. Having worn such nametags, the young man's mother and grandfather were, no
doubt, once prisoners of the internment camps, their identities exchanged for the tags.
The young man wanders through a desert of his own ignorance and
misunderstanding. "The protagonist who goes through the journey represents the new
Japanese American who wants to forget. Many are ashamed of their forebears and want
to move forward" (Say, Brown Interview 64). However, it is not only for young Japanese
Americans that the book is written. It is for all Americans who fail to recognize children
of the invisible, be they Japanese Americans during World War II or Native Americans
today. Say's title carries a double meaning. For those willing to face the harsher realities
of America's past, confronting them and incorporating their hard-earned lessons in a
national dialogue, it is for such brave souls that the book is also named.
Fig. 1 in Tea with Milk uses a door to symbolize cultural divisions between
American-born May and her Japanese-born parents, cultural divisions that she would
transcend, but that would dramatically shape the woman she became. The same cultural
divisions would also profoundly shape her son, the author. Fig. 5 in Kamishibai Man uses
the butai as a door or portal between reality and fantasy, for the purpose of reconciling
Jiichan's past with his present. Sleep, too, is such a portal. Having fallen asleep at the
bottom of a dark, subterranean space, lulled by the imagined voices of children, the
young man in Home of the Brave wakes to the sound of whispers and bright daylight. He
is surrounded by a group of Native American children (fig. 9).
Fig. 9. Watercolor illustration from Allen Say, Home of the Brave (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002) 29.
The children stand behind the empty kayak, looking down toward the ground at the
river's bank. The viewpoint of the reader and the young man are the same, lying on the
bank, looking up at the children. The man and the river bank are not pictured, but textual
clues locate both relative to the image. The man tells the children that they did not have
to run, as the children blankly stare. Realizing his mistake, he asks where he is. '"You're
in our camp,' one of them answered" (28). The young man sits up, shocked to see
nametags scattered across the ground. Leaping to his feet, he runs up the bank.
Simultaneously, a gust of wind scatters the nametags in the air. Shown in the final
illustration on page thirty-one, he reaches into his pocket and releases the nametags of his
mother and grandfather into the wind, the two strips of paper joining the others. The man
and the children watch as they disappear over the mountains, like a flock of birds.
"They went home," said a child.
"Yes, they went home," the man said.
And the children nodded. (30)
The children's "camp" is their reservation. Japanese Americans, like so many
Native Americans, were torn from their homes and communities and forced to live an
isolated existence under harsh conditions on unforgiving lands. Ironically, all of the
internment camps in Arizona were located on Indian reservations, ".. .in fact, all of them
are on Indian land, when you think of it" (Say, Publishers Weekly Interview). Vaunted
national values such as freedom, equality, and opportunity seem shamefully dishonest in
light of such treatment of minorities by the United States, more often than not for
political or economic gain. In the story's final three illustrations, lightness of hues builds
steadily, with the concluding image the most radiant. In it, the Indian children and the
young man are seen from a distance, their backs to the reader, looking upwards toward
the soaring strips of paper carried by the wind. Their figures begin to dissolve against the
bright horizon. The heavy grays and steely blues of previous images become lightsuffused tints. The once threatening mountains retreat and nearly melt away in the
distance. The young man's arm is raised, his hand opened, bidding farewell to the
nametags and the souls they represent, rising skyward. It is an image full of hope.
Allen Say's message in Home of the Brave is about the strength and endurance of
the human spirit and its ability to transcend difficult circumstances in order to realize a
better life. It is a message that resonates with the author, mirroring his life experiences,
and it is extremely personal—a message that he lovingly revisits in many of his books.
Restraint characterizes both Say's text and his images. His are not fairytales; they are
human tales, full of thoughtful and meaningful detail, culled from day-to-day existence.
Clarity and economy are the hallmarks of Say's writing and illustration, which is not to
suggest that his work lacks subtlety and complexity. Initially, Home of the Brave seems a
difficult picture book for children to understand. On analysis, the book is very accessible.
It is the story of a dream, and a story more than just believably told. For it is a believable
as well as powerfully meaningful story, due to its surprisingly rational structure and the
emotional integrity required of its honest telling.
Clarity, carefully researched detail, and depth of theme characterize all of Say's
efforts, both written and illustrative. And while heightened color, contrast, and movement
might typify children's picture book illustrations generally, Say's images are subdued on
all three counts. His representations of characters are, more often than not, static. His
pictorial spaces are always carefully defined, and the placements of figures in those
spaces are likewise deliberate. Special attention is given to facial expressions, so often
self-contained but suggestive of powerful feeling lurking beneath. Say's preferred colors
are naturalistic, his palette is often restricted. But he can and often does use color for
striking symbolic effect. His ordered surfaces are often grid-like, with strong vertical and
horizontal elements predominate. Absent such linear elements, Say is perfectly happy to
use "emptiness" in his illustrations to isolate figures and add emotional impact. Such a
predictable and repetitive visual dynamic for children might, in the abstract, seem
uninspiring. Not true. Given the weight of Say's themes and the realistic nature of his
characters and events, such controlled imagery provides a logical, well-ordered place for
both characters and readers to stop and reflect. The engineered stillness of Say's
illustrations provides the time and space for emotions to be examined, insights made, and
plans set into motion.
The dual demands and expectations of two cultures and languages are not always
easily reconciled in a single personality, not, at least, without some conflict and necessary
compromise. Yet reconciliation of cultures is exactly what Allen Say was forced to
confront and achieve very early in his life. His picture books are extraordinary examples
for children and adults of the personal struggle and sacrifice necessary to successfully
meld dualities of language, history, and tradition. Throughout his career, Say has
unapologetically relied on his own personal narrative in framing his stories, producing
works of great diversity and sensitivity, unique in their appeal. In "Weaving Words and
Pictures: Allen Say and the Art of Illustration," Christina Desai correctly summarizes
Say's achievements, both artistic and personal:
Personal development is the inevitable project of childhood. Personal
artistic development is the path of the artist. Both are intensely connected
to culture, but culture is not a straitjacket. Rather, it is an atmosphere in
which identity can be explored and developed. Artists, immersed in one
culture, but aware of cross currents, reveal that contemporary milieu that
is often so pervasive as to be invisible. While exploring the dynamics of
personal and artistic development, Say encourages readers to consider the
importance of reading more than words. (426)
My picture book, found on a CD in Appendix A, Okinawan O-mivage owes much
stylistically to Allen Say, incorporating many of his traits with my own sense of color and
composition. Say's individual illustrations are each carefully planned and executed.
Naturalism, rather than realism, best describes Say's illustrative style. He is attentive to
details, but not slavishly so. He freely manipulates the formal elements of his images, and
is not above using abstract or impressionistic means or caricature to achieve his goals.
His clarity and efficiency are the result of his thoughtful manipulation and editing.
Say continues to rebalance his world through his art. His quest for identity
resolves itself with each new creation. Unlike Say, I did not experience the trauma of
being thrown unsupported into a completely different culture, forced to adapt while
learning a very difficult new language. Neither was I rejected by my family, nor
perceived as an enemy in my newly adopted country. However, as an American living in
Japan now for eleven years, my challenges are still those of redefining myself and
reframing my notion of home. If suffering informs creativity, then I am afraid I cannot
compete with Allen Say on an equal footing. Yet I can find those quiet corners of my
small island and value them, lavish my attention on them, and paint them. And like Say, I
can continue to explore my own personal narrative.
Clark, Carolyn, and Rossiter, Marsha. "Narrative Learning in Adulthood." New
Directions for Adult and Continuing Education 119 (Fall 2008): 61-70. EBSCO.
12 Dec. 2009.
Desai, Christina. "Weaving Words and Pictures: Allen Say and the Art of Illustration."
The Lion and the Unicorn 28.3 (2004): 408-428. Project Muse. 12 Dec. 2009.
Keen, Suzanne. "A Theory of Narrative Empathy." Narrative 14.3 (2006): 207-236.
JSTOR. 19 June 2010.
Lange, Dorothea. Photograph of Members of the Mochida Family Awaiting Evacuation,
05/08/1942. United States Dept. of the Interior. War Relocation Authority,
(02/16/1944 - 06/30/1946). The National Archives. Web. 19 June 2010.
Nash, Eric. Manga Kamishibai: The Art of Japanese Paper Theater. New York: Abrams
Comicarts, 2009. Print.
Nikolajeva, Maria, and Scott, Carole. "The Dynamics of Picturebook Communication."
Children's Literature in Education 31.4 (2000): 225-239. EBSCO. 9 June 2010.
Nodelman, Perry. Words About Pictures: The Narrative Art of Children's Picture Books.
Athens, Georgia: U of Georgia P, 1988. Print.
Noriyuki, Duane. "Land of the Free." Los Angeles Times 21 April 2002. Web. 6 June
Pang, Jennifer. "Finding Home in a Foreign Land." International Examiner 37.1 (2010):
12-13. ProOuest. 11 Dec. 2009.
"Rohwer Relocation Center." Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture. Web.
6 June 2010.
Say, Allen. Grandfather's Journey. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993. Print.
—. Home of the Brave. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002. Print.
—. Kamashibai Man. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005. Print.
—. Tea with Milk. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999. Print.
—. Interview. "Allen Say Interview Transcript 2.", n.d. Web. 11 Dec.
—. Interview with Stephanie Loer. "Interview with Allen Say." Houghton Mifflin n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2009.
—. Interview. "Meet the Authors and Illustrators: Allen Say.", n.d.
Web. 11 Dec. 2009.
—. Interview with Jennifer Brown. "PW Talks with Allen Say." Publishers Weekly 249.8
(2002): 64. Web. 11 Dec. 2009.
Sipe, Lawrence. "How Picture Books Work: A Semiotically Framed Theory of TextPicture Relationships." Children's Literature in Education 29.2 (1998): 97-108.
EBSCO. 11 Dec. 2009.
Project Title:
Disk Title:
Computer Make/Model:
Memory Required:
Peripherals Required:
William Nixon
Personal Narrative in the Artwork and Writing of Allen Say
Master of Arts in Humanities
Okinawan O-miyage
36,210 KB
Color Monitor, CD Drive
Audiovisual Material:
Computer Disk
Okinawan O-miyage
Length: 31 pages
Color: 16 pages
Black and White: 15 pages
Other: Please Describe:
Additional Information: Readable with Adobe Acrobat 9
Trade and R e f e r e n c e P u b l i s h e r s
Sr Permissions Manager
July 14, 2010
William Nixon
2916 Menlo
Wichita, KS 67211
Dear Mr. Nixon:
Thank you for your request of June 24, 2010 concerning permission to utilize material from the
books, TEA WITH MILK, KAMISHIBAI MAN and HOME OF THF BRAVE, all by Allen Say for use
in your doctoral dissertation for the California State University at Dominguez Hills.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is pleased to grant permission for the reprinting of this material in
your doctoral dissertation for California State University at Dominguez Hills, provided full credit
acknowledgement is given to the title, author, illustrator, copyright holder, and publisher on the
acknowledgements page of your project.
The permission applies to all copies of your dissertation made to meet degree requirements of
California State University at Dominguez Hills, and to University Microfilms editions, which
produces copies on demand.
Please re-apply to this department if your dissertation is later accepted for publication and you
wish to retain our material.
215 Park Avenue South I N e w York N Y 10003 I phone 2 I 2 4 2 0 5802 I fax 2 12 420 5899 I ran hussey@hmhpub c o m | w w w hmhoooks c o n
Без категории
Размер файла
2 716 Кб
Пожаловаться на содержимое документа