Holy Prayers in a Horse's Ear: A Japanese American Memoir

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Rutgers University Press, 2008 - Biography & Autobiography - 182 pages
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In Holy Prayers in a Horse's Ear, Kathleen Tamagawa, born in 1893 in Chicago to an Irish-American mother and a Japanese father, reflects on race as "belonging" or fitting in to a culture and chronicles her inability to ever feel 'at home' in any place as a result of her mixed heritage. She deals very directly and fiercely with her Chicago childhood being classified as "the Japanese doll" who never in fact was culturally Japanese--a "Jap who talked with a Chicago brogue" as her brother-in-law puts it. In America, her ever personal quirk and quality is seen as quintessentially Japanese, and nonexistent Japanese qualities are imposed on her, and despite being tall, she is seen as "the little Japanese lady". She was a young adult in a period when she never knew whether she would meet admiration or fear of the Japanese, whether she herself would be perceived as "the Japanese doll" or "the yellow menace". Later in life, as a diplomat's wife, she became enough of an unknown quantity that people would frankly express their racial prejudices in front of her, not realizing she was half Japanese. This edition, which also includes Tamagawa's recently rediscovered short story, "A Fit in Japan," and a critical introduction, will challenge readers to reconsider how complex ethnic identities are negotiated and how feelings of alienation limit human identification in any society.

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About the author (2008)

Elena Tajima Creef is Associate Professor of Women's Studies at Wellesley College.

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