|Japanese Gardens, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco|
Usually by the time I've reached the end of the first chapter in a book, I flip to the back cover pages to read the 'About the Author' section. This information seems somehow critical to my reading, as though I need this information to put the book into the right context. This was probably never more true than when I flipped to the back of How To Be An American Housewife and read the blurb about author Margaret Dilloway. Suddenly, her novel about a Japanese woman who married an American soldier at the end of WWII and was supplied with a guide on how to be a good American housewife seemed more biographical than fiction.
The author blurb says that Dilloway was inspired by her Japanese mother's experiences, and especially by a book her father had given to her mother called The American Way of Housekeeping. Like Dilloway, this discovery fascinated me. Each chapter of the book begins with an excerpt from the book, some of which were very insightful as to the differences in our cultures. For instance, the guide instructed Japanese women on how to make spaghetti, which they considered to be the meal that every American husband would want. It also addressed the isolation and prejudices they might face as Japanese women in America, and how they should respond. It was a glimpse into life in that era, and into the lives of a population few knew anything about.
Dilloway painted a fabulous picture of what life might have been like for a young Japanese woman at the end of the war. She takes us from American-occupied Japan to the United States. I can only imagine that much of Shoko's character is based on her mother. It also made me wonder whether the character of Sue (the daughter) was based on herself and her relationship with her mother? Bottom line, I inserted that perspective into the book as I read.
The author blurb definitely added to my enjoyment of the novel. I'm looking forward to reading Dilloway's next book, and can't help but wonder how the 'About the Author' blurb will change.