BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Yarn: Remembering the Way Home by Kyoko Mori

YarnThis weekend, I get to meet Kyoko Mori in livetime [I’m scheduled to moderate an Asian American literary panel on Sunday morning as part of the first-ever Amnesty International Human Rights Art Festival, sponsored by the brand-new Asian American Literary Review). Anyone can join me, by the way … the seven-fabulous-writers panel is free and open to the public (more information below).

So it’s been a long while since Mori has been on my literary radar, although my teenage daughter’s bookshelves now house Mori’s young adult titles, including Shizuko’s Daughter and One Bird. Ironically, Mori confesses her dislike for children in Yarn, although her most successful fiction has been for younger readers. But I’m getting ahead of myself here …

Born and raised in Kobe, Japan, Mori is just 12 when her beloved mother “couldn’t see the point of going on,” living an isolated life with two young children and an openly philandering husband. Forever haunted by her suicide, the lost/missing mother looms large in all of Mori’s titles. Within a mere two months of the tragedy, Mori’s neglectful father brings home an abusive stepmother. Mori eventually manages to escape not only her family, but the binding traditions of Japanese culture by moving to the States for graduate school, eventually becoming Dr. Mori with a PhD in English/Creative Writing.

When Mori herself marries, the relationship could not be more different from her parents. While her mother “had told her parents that she would rather die than live without Hiroshi [Mori’s father],” Mori looks at her own marriage to Chuck, a schoolteacher, as a helpful “formality,” something that will last only “as long as he and I chose.” During the dozen years they are bound together, they keep most of their intimate lives separate – from their bank accounts to their family and friends. Mori’s repeated attempts to plant roots in Green Bay, Wisconsin – Chuck’s hometown – where she lands her first teaching job, eventually fail. Her slowly unraveling marriage ends in amicable divorce, and Mori finds true contentment and peace on her own.

The one constant in Mori’s unsettled life is her knitting … as if with every project, she is trying to knit together the mismatched, sometimes unruly threads of her scattered existence. From the yellow mittens she failed to make correctly in a 7th grade home economics class to the “Flip-Flop Mittens” she is able to successfully snip and restitch 30 years later, Mori’s Yarn is one woman’s long journey across oceans, cultures, and relationships to finally reach ‘home.’

Somewhat surprisingly, Yarn is a quick, quiet read. Mori reels you in, row by row, detail by detail, much as she might unhurriedly construct another seamless sweater (a non-pattern to which she is partial), until the sweater – and story – becomes fully complete.

Tidbit: On Sunday, April 25 at 10:00 a.m., Kyoko Mori joins Peter Bacho (Leaving Yesler, Cebu), Sonya Chung (Long for This World), Ru Freeman (A Disobedient Girl), April Naoko Heck (poems in Artful Dodge, Shenandoah), Srikanth Reddy (Facts for Visitors), and Karen Tei Yamashita (I Hotel, Circle K Cycles) at Montgomery College’s Cafritz Hall 101, 954 King Street, Silver Spring, Maryland. For more information, click here.

Readers: Adult

Published: 2009



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