Nisei Daughter Essay

This essay has a total of 838 words and 4 pages.

Nisei Daughter


"Even with all the mental anguish and struggle, an elemental instinct bound us to this
soil. Here we were born; here we wanted to live. We had tasted of its freedom and learned
of its brave hopes for democracy. It was too late, much too late for us to turn back."
(Sone 124). This statement is key to understanding much of the novel, Nisei Daughter,
written by Monica Sone. From one perspective, this novel is an autobiographical account of
a Japanese American girl and the ways in which she constructed her own self-identity. On
the other hand, the novel depicts the distinct differences and tension that formed between
the Issei and Nisei generations. Moreover, it can be seen as an attempt to describe the
confusion experienced by Japanese Americans torn between two cultures.

First, and most obvious, Monica Sone accounts for, in an autobiographical manner, the
important events and situations in her life that helped create her self-identity. She
recounts an event at the age of five, when she found out that she, "had Japanese blood."
This recognition would spark the chain of many more realizations to come. Sone describes
the relationships she had with her parents and siblings. She seems very pleased with and
delighted by the differing, yet caring personalities of each person in her family. Sone
describes herself as a typical American child: going to school, playing mischievously with
friends on the block, reading, spending quality time with her family, etc. Monica
described herself as a playful, almost tomboyish, young girl. She also saw herself as
intelligent and hardworking. Throughout her novel, Monica describes events and
experiences, which reveal her character and personality. However, if perceived solely as
an autobiography, the major theme of this novel is overlooked.

I think Monica Sone focuses on, and clearly shows, the tension that arose in the Japanese
American community because they felt torn between two distinct cultures and amongst
themselves. There was also much confusion in this pre-World War II and during WWII era
concerning the place of Japanese Americans in the United States. The Issei, or first
generation of immigrants from Japan, were generally highly organized in their communities.
They tended to stay in close connection with traditional Japanese culture. The Issei spoke
their native language, practiced traditional Japanese customs, and formed church groups,
and other social communities amongst themselves. Similarly, the Nisei, or second
generation Japanese American, were also highly organized and formed strong ties amongst
themselves separate from the Issei. The Nisei attended Japanese schools, which enhanced
their use of the Japanese language, but more importantly, created a social network of
peers. They participated in church programs, and sports teams together. One main
difference between the Issei and Nisei was that the Nisei were considered Americans. They
were born here and they held complete citizenship. This was not true for the Issei.
Another factor that separated the two generations was that Nisei, for the most part, were
in daily contact with white Americans. This contact came about through attending American
schools and socializing with the mainstream Americans. The Issei were confused by the
disloyalty of the Nisei to Japanese ways. In one situation told by Monica Sone, the Nisei
took part in protests against Japanese freighters. The Nisei college students picketed
Continues for 2 more pages >>




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