Saturday, January 9, 2010

Namako: Sea Cucumber - Linda Watanabe McFerrin

I borrowed this one from my mother - this strange coming-of-age story is about Ellen, a quarter-Japanese child whose parents have moved her and her three younger siblings to Japan from the United States in the hopes of saving their marriage. Ellen is in the midst of quite an identity crisis - she is no longer a child like her siblings, but certainly not adult enough to understand much of what is going on around her. She looks different than her friends in America, but she's certainly not Asian enough and can barely speak the language in her new country. With her fractured outlook, Ellen befriends a girl named Anne, establishes an almost spiritual relationship with her aging grandmother, and experiences the confusion of interactions with a teacher who crosses boundaries under the guise of assisting her artistic development. While the entire novel is about Ellen's growth as an individual, the chapters are disconnected in a way that reflects Ellen's life, but also makes it difficult to really get into. I did, however, appreciated the portrayal of Ellen as a real girl - she makes cowardly choices because she can't find her own voice, she follows when she knows it's wrong, and she keeps secrets because she wants to feel special., but also because she is loyal. She is lonely and scared, but at the same time strong and independent. While I wanted more from this book in terms of plot, I really loved Ellen and have high hopes for the amazing person she is sure to become.

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