A Dog and a Girl: Wakako Yamauchi’s “Dogs I Owe To” in ROSEBUD AND OTHER STORIES

“Dogs I Owe To” is a wonderful story from Wakako Yamauchi’s collection Rosebud and Other Stories (University of Hawai’i Press), edited by the fabulous Lillian Howan.  Here’s an excerpt from the Foreword:

Secret desires, unfulfilled longing and irrepressible humor flow through his stories, writings that depict the life of Nisei, second-generation Japanese Americans.  Through the medium of her storytelling, the reader enters the world of desert farmers, factory workers, gamblers, housewives, con artists and dreamers, the bitter and the ever-hopeful.

And an excerpt from “Dogs I Owe To” :

The Great American Depression was winding down, but there was little money on the average farm.  We recycled our clothes and ate off the land.  Meat was not a staple at our house.  We didn’t keep animals on the farm because it wasn’t practical.  At that time in America, noncitizens weren’t permitted to own land, and Japanese, by law, were denied citizenship.  Again, by law, land leases to Asian immigrants were limited to three years, so every two or three years, Japanese farmers loaded houses and farm gear on trucks to move to yet another barren patch of land.  We were nomads; there was no hunkering down with large animals.  It was too hard to herd them from place to place.  We even stopped keeping chickens.

It was also before the advent of dry or canned pet food —  not that we could have bought Dickie any.  He was happy to eat leftover rice drenched in soy sauce.  In spring he gnawed on yellow crookneck squash.  He didn’t like eggplant or tomatoes.  He had on occasion mutton or lamb discarded by shepherds who passed through.  He woke up happy to be alive, jumping and bounding in the sharp morning air.  I didn’t allow him to touch me with his dusty paws, especially when I was dressed for school, so he pranced parallel to me, leaping and dancing, happy with even this tiny space in the grand scheme of things.

It’s a beautiful collection.

*     *     *

And, three days after beginning the Yamauchi story, self still hasn’t gotten to the end.  Last night was big shebang at Tita Lily’s house on Sixth Street, in honor of Tita Lily’s 93rd birthday.  There was:

  • ballroom dancing
  • chicken relleno
  • father of execrable Ida, who delivered the biggest snub (to self) a few days ago at the  Balay Daku, which only serves to prove how fierce a father’s love can be (And self heard that he himself doesn’t even get along with Ida!  But blood is always thicker than water, even when that water belongs to the family that has hired not only this man, but his daughter, and his son, and kept them all well-fed for 50 years)
  • leche flan
  • lechon
  • live music
  • mass
  • seafood paella with black rice
  • Zack

Self left early and found that she missed the slide show.  There was a picture of her as a toddler, sitting on the lap of Dearest Mum.  If self had been there to see it, she might very well be in a different place this morning.  She might be at the Balay Daku, attending the annual meeting of the GV & Sons stockholders.

But, as she told cousin Baby Par last night, she is an outsider:  an annoying one, to be sure, yet in the end completely irrelevant.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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