Middle Son

Middle Son

For Spencer Fujii, Hawaii is not a vacation paradise but a place of hard work and heartache, the transplanted home of his Japanese-American family -- and the site of a long-ago tragedy that changed his world forever. Now, as an adult returning from Oahu to visit his ailing mother, Spencer is rediscovering what it means to be a middle son in a world where duty shapes destiny -- and where the ghosts of those long gone can haunt a man no matter how far from home he travels.

Reviews of the Middle Son

I haven't read nearly enough books set in an intimately authentic Hawaii, especially where the characters speak pidgin. I am desperately seeking a book that speaks to my native sensibilities; one written by a local author for a local audience. The barrier came in the first few paragraphs when I realized that the author was going to explain certain things about Hawaii and her cultures, especially foods, that I felt the narrator shouldn't be explaining. It holds pistachio nuts from my recent Las Vegas trip, kalua pig and cinnamon bread from Oahu fundraisers, and the pork-filled buns we call manapua that my mother likes." Using the words "we call manapua" let me know that this book wasn't written for me and people like me; people from and of Hawaii that understand her cultural references. This book is written by someone attempting first to understand and then explain these references to someone who knows them even less. An outsider interested in, admiring, and perhaps even fetishizing Hawaii culture is the target audience.

But as I read it and finally get through it, this book indeed was way different from what I had anticipated.

Constructing Middleness: Hawaiian Identity in Deborah Iidas Middle Son Deborah Iidas Middle Son (1996) is the life story of Spencer Fujii. The second of three sons born during the 1940s to a working-class family on the Hawaiian island of Maui, Spencer grows up torn between loyalty to his familys traditions and the temptation to leave ethnic consciousness behind, to become westernized: a real American. Spencer Fujii is Japanese-American, a member of an ethnic minority. Spencer eventually rejects both of the paths that life presents to him. In Spencer Fujii, Iida offers a solution to the riddle of postcolonial Hawaiian identity. Iidas employment of an ethnically Japanese character, rather than a character of native Hawaiian descent, begs for explanation. As each new group arrived in Hawaii, its members were welcomed into working-class society (Fenton 159). The language of the masters was English, but the workers spoke a Pidgin that incorporated elements from all of the islands ethnic contributors (Aspinwall 7). Spencers parents were born on the islands: Issei. As the book opens, Spencer is arriving at the Maui airport after a short flight from his home on the Hawaiian island of Oahu: My mother is dying, he begins. We learn about Spencers life as he and his mother relive their past. Although Spencer is the second of three sons, he spends most of his life as an only child. The first son, Taizo, died at twelve years old, when Spencer was just ten. And William, the family baby, is given at the age of one month to Spencers aunt and uncle, who cannot have children, to raise as their own. If Spencer is not the middle son by virtue of family structure, then in what sense is he middle? This question proves to be central to the definition of Spencers character and a key toward understanding the novel as a depiction of prototypical Hawaiian-ness. To be Hawaiian, Iida shows us, is to be middle. The three Fujii sons are named Taizo, Spencer, and William. My mom says that when Taizo was born, she wanted him to have one English name, Spencer says in adult conversation with William. Taizos death is symbolic of his Japanese essence and its relationship to Hawaii. The separation between Japanese Taizo and the Hawaiian land is complete. We learn that William is no longer close to either of his Hawaiian families. He has moved to Seattle and is no longer Hawaiian, but simply Japanese-Americanemphasis on American. The mainland represents a sort of secular materialism to Hawaiians of all ethnic groups, a place where one can blend in and escape from the claustrophobic expectations of family and neighbors (Chi 65). The army episodea chapter named Perspectiverepresents Spencers attempt to escape not only the disparate elements of his ethnic heritage, but his Hawaiian identity as well. Later, a fellow Hawaiian serviceman named Kenneth attempts to enlist Spencer in preparations for a luau at the conclusion of boot camp. Later, recruits from across the United States quiz Spencer about his background, one guessing that he is Mexican and another rejecting his claim of Japanese heritage because he was born on U.S. soil. The final scene in Spencers experiment in ethnic denial takes place in Saigon, where he and a soldier of mixed Portuguese and Filipino descent consider whether they would be recognized as American if they were killed in action and their government-issue clothing somehow destroyed: Maybe they can recognize you, said Winston . When his term is up, Spencer finds that returning to Hawaii is an easy decision to make. It is not only in adopting a cultural background that Spencer embodies middleness. Between these two poles is the lingua franca of the Hawaiian underclass, Pidgin: the same Pidgin that evolved on the plantations to allow Chinese and Japanese and Filipino co-workers to share jokes and stories as they rested after a long days work in the sugar fields. Except for his conversations with William, Spencer speaks Pidgin throughout the book. His fluency stands in contrast to his mothers: Her parents spoke Japanese, and her children spoke English. Spencers Pidgin is the middle choice, and once again middleness marks him as Hawaiian, a true native of a land that liescoincidentally, surelyin the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Middleness in the Hawaiian sense is not a rejection of East and West, but a synthesis of them, a way of honoring both traditions. In the Western tradition, ideals of ethical behavior come to us from Aristotle (387-322 BCE), who defined the middle path as virtuous in the Nicomachean Ethics. Middleness is likewise an ideal of the Eastern tradition as expressed in the Siddhartha Gautamas first sermon: Avoiding . In exemplifying middleness, the character of Spencer Fujii is making a life that brings together the East and the West, the Japanese and the American, the worker class and the haole overseers. First-Time Author Deborah Iida Explores This Japanese Tradition in her Book Middle Son. Cincinnati Citybeat. Resistance and Reclamation: Hawaii Pidgin English and Autoethnography in the Short Stories of Darrell H.Y. Lum. Ethnicity and the American Short Story (Wellesley Studies in Critical Theory, Literary History, and Culture).

The sugar plantation that Spencer was raised on becomes a metaphor of change and evolution of culture, of birth and death and all the small births and deaths in between.

Although the setting is mostly in Hawaii I felt somehow it was also "my" story.

The first reason to choose this book is because of its realistic experiences. The second reason that you should choose this book is because of its plot that is easy to read and understand. Middle Son, teaches you many life lesson because he is going through many hard times in his life; therefore, he knows how to handle and overcome many challenges that he had. I could relate to many things that were occurring , the plot was easy to read and understand and lastly the universal theme was inspirational.

  • English

  • Fiction

  • Rating: 3.74
  • Pages: 224
  • Publish Date: July 1st 2000 by Berkley Trade
  • Isbn10: 0425174433
  • Isbn13: 9780425174432