The Thumbnail Book Reviews

by John Q McDonald --- 15 August 2002

All I Asking for Is My Body

by Milton Murayama

This is a small but brilliant book telling the story of a couple of Japanese boys growing up on a Hawaiian sugar plantation in the years before World War 2. The eldest, Tosh, is a restless young man, fighting fiercely against the Japanese tradition of filial piety. He is enjoined to support his parents, who are deeply in debt, for many years after he's reached adulthood. Infected by an American sense of independence, and the opression of the plantation system, he yearns to go back to school and break free. His younger brother is a studious young man who more quietly resists the same pressures. The book is a revealing portrait of plantation life. It tells a lot about the history of life in Hawaii, many of the effects lingering on into the 21st century (most sugar plantations in the islands have shut down in the past couple decades). There are details of Japanese and Hawaiian culture. And there are the struggles between tradition and modern life. That modern world bursts in on these boys' lives in the form of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It changes everything, including the way the Japanese see themselves within Hawaiian culture. All of this in a mere 105 pages. A great little book.

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