Friday, August 26, 2011
Nora Okja Keller
"On the fifth anniversary of my father's death, my mother confessed to his murder." Thus begins Nora Okja Keller's breathtaking first novel, which follows Beccah, a young Korean-American girl growing up in Hawaii, as she uncovers the secret of her mother's past. Completely ignorant of her mother Akiko's history - she was sold into prostitution in the Japanese "recreation camps" of World War II for her oldest sister's dowry - Beccah understands that her mother lives in a spirit world she cannot share, and that clearly marks her as "other." Narrated in two voices, Beccah's and Akiko's, Keller reveals the story of Akiko's extraordinary dislocation - the slavery of the camps, the death of her first child, her unhappy marriage to an American missionary - which Beccah understands only after her mother's death. In language that is both harsh and lyrical, Keller explores the universally complicated relationship between mother and daughter. She shows us both Akiko's way of survival, sustained by her remarkable strength and her love for her daughter, and Beccah's acceptance of her mother and her own place in a world her mother no longer physically inhabits.