Allen Say is a cartoonist who was able to write a book regarding his experience in living in Japan and the United States. The desire of Allen to move to the U.S. was brought by the longing of his grandfather to see again the wonders of California and its exquisite beauty that is comparable to the exotic beauty of Japan. Due to the experiences narrated to him by his grandfather, he became interested in going to America as well. However, at first, he was not able to appreciate the beauty which his grandfather shared with him, but later on, little by little, he was able to see the beauty which was told to him by his grandfather.
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The book written by Allen Say (1993) entitled “Grandfather’s Journey” is a children’s story which captures the life of every migrant who has been missing their homelands. The story presents the biography of Allen Say’s family as Japanese Americans. Throughout the book, Say (1993) made his readers understand how it is to live and miss the land which one has learned to appreciate and love. Although the book was made for little children, it was able to convey the experience of living in two different homelands (Say, 1993). The graphical images in the book make it easy for readers to understand, appreciate, and realize the longing which Allen Say and his grandfather experienced while reminiscing the beauty of Japan and America.
The whole book does not only address the lives of Japanese-Americans, but it also expresses the sentiment of every multi-cultural inpidual. It is known to many that having two different cultures could be mind boggling due to the differences each culture has. There are times when the other culture disregards some of the belief of the other cultures. On the other hand, some cultures have similar values and traditions. Migrants are one of the few people who experience difficulties in culture, most especially those who were able to spend an equal span of their lives in both lands (Say, 1993).
The entire book presents that there are differences in the culture of every land. These cultural differences are often a cause of conflict due to frequent misunderstandings. In the book, Allen Say (1993) tried to mix the American culture and the Japanese culture. The author had done an excellent job due to the proper explanation of the conflict of the situation which makes it more understandable for his young readers. With a painting in every page to illustrate the story, the author was able to present the historical details of his grandfather’s and his own experiences. The paintings display the experience of his grandfather from the time he was in Japan until he was able to go to U.S. All the changes that his grandfather took are depicted in the pictures, such as the change in clothing style (Say, 1993).
The setting of the story changes to different location and is evident due to the paintings. These paintings make it easier for the readers to identify the beauty and the description of the places that his grandfather cannot forget. The paintings set the mood for the readers to appreciate the beauty of the places being described. Most of the paintings are calm and relaxing which could be one of the aspirations of the author for his readers. The colors used in the paintings make the book more interesting and captivating. In addition, the young readers would be able to classify and understand the changes that took place in Allen Say and his grandfather’s life through the paintings (Say, 1993).
The types of characters were not like any stories available in children’s book. Due to the short sentences provided to describe the scenery in the book, the personality of the characters were not highlighted except Allen Say’s grandfather. Personally, I believe that the grandfather of the author has learned to appreciate the environment of the U.S. and Japan. Therefore, he often longs for the places where he went to. There might be an aura and calm which he could only find in certain places. In another perspective, the culture and lifestyles of both Japanese and American may have already mixed within him.
The longing to be within a certain culture might have been the need of his grandfather whenever he wanted to move back and fro the countries. The amount of time spent by his grandfather in these countries might have also been the reason for him to yearn a different environment every once in a while. That yearning might be something which he cannot find in Japan or vice versa. The other characters in the story were not given much highlight. The story focuses only on their family in general, their travels, and his grandfather’s experiences (Say, 1993).
The conflict of the situation was within the decision and attachment of his grandfather towards his homelands (Japan and United States). The family members were the ones who were following the desire of the grandfather in order to pacify the feeling that he needed at the moment. Other conflicts include the need of Say’s mother of a city lifestyle because she was used to a “city-living.” The whole family needed to have a home in the province as well as in the city to adhere to the lifestyle that they all wanted. However, after the war, all their properties in the city were damaged, leaving them homeless. The family moved back again to the province until the author was born. Still, Allen Say’s grandfather was not able to forget the United States—specifically San Francisco. The cherished state became his grandfather’s most frequently spoken word which was later on passed to the author (Say, 1993).
The theme of the story centers on an inpidual who was longing for the homelands that he had. The story presents that there is conflict in migration and also in having a multi-cultural background. Although it might not be complicated for others, the grandfather, being the main character in the story, wanted to experience life in the American and Japanese ways. It is complicated due to the unique differences that these cultures have. Another is the scenery and the people within the countries stated. It is known that Americans are more liberal and free in terms of attitude and values of the people, while the Japanese are much conservative in their way of living. The environment is also a part of the story’s themes. In one of the portions of the story, his grandfather kept birds while they were in the city in order for him to be reminded of the twittering of the birds in the province. It was also mentioned that his grandfather loved the ocean which is not directly available in Japan due to its geographical location (Say, 1993).
During class, this type of story is one of the best books to discuss. It is interesting due to the pictures it provides to its readers. Children reading this book would be able to appreciate this type of book. However, they would not have the same understanding of the message that the author wanted to convey. Hence, it would be best if a class discussion about this book would be made. A simple sharing of thoughts would be the best way to hear different perspectives of different students. If there are multicultural inpiduals within the class, it is better if they could present their thoughts about their life and how they see their life now in the U.S.
After the discussion, an assignment of the same kind should be done. Just like the book, a student should be able to present a scrapbook or a drawing book which describes how he or she feels about the story written by Allen Say. If not, the students would be asked if they could share a story close to Allen Say’s written work. Provided that there are multicultural students within the class, it is best that they provide a short story that recounts the lifestyle they used to have in their home countries or at home and compare it to their life in the U.S. today.
Say, A. (1993). Grandfather’s Journey. United States of America: Houghton Mifflin Company.
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