A young girl leaves Tokyo with her mother in 1979, carrying her pink suitcase to a new home, a new father and sister, on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. Thirty-three years later, her mother’s belongings are found packed into boxes, her furniture draped in white sheets. Without so much as a note, a mother leaves these two grown sisters to figure out where she has gone.
As steadily and quietly as her marriage falls apart, so Kyoko Mori’s understanding of knitting deepens. From the flawed school mittens made in her native Japan, where needlework is used as a way to prepare women for marriage and silence, to the beautiful unmatched patterns of cardigans, hats, and shawls made in the American Midwest, Mori draws the connection between knitting and the new life she tried to establish in the United States.
Maya Ishida is no stranger to sorrow. Torn from her artist father and native Japan as a child, raised by her cold, ambitious mother in Minneapolis, she has finally put together a life with few disruptions: a safe marriage to a man who never asks any questions, a quiet job weaving clothes in a country studio. The past is no more than a story she vaguely remembers; the present is a gray landscape of solitary pleasures and modest expectations. But when her father dies, Maya is pulled back into the memory of their parting.
Kyoko Mori’s life falls into two halves: childhood in Japan, adulthood in the Midwest. In both places she has been an outsider, unable to quite mimic everyone’s polite lies. In twelve penetrating, painful, and at times hilarious essays, she explores the codes of silence, deference, and expression that govern Japanese and American women’s lives.
In 1990 Kyoko Mori returned to her native Japan to visit the landscape of her childhood. There—looking for the house in which her mother killed herself, running on land that was once water, and retracing childhood train trips to her grandparents’ farm—she relived the memories and uncovered the secrets that unlocked her past. In The Dream of Water, a series of chapters that are themselves” small perfections,” she leads us to the “larger happiness” of an autobiography that is also a work of art.
Winner of the 2015 the Children’s Literature Association’s Phoenix Award, 1996 Council for Wisconsin Writers Anne Powers Book-Length Fiction Award, an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults, and 1996 Hungry Mind Review Children’s Book of Distinction.
Kyoko Mori portrays a mother and a daughter trapped by traditional values and gender roles in Japan in the 1970s. Megumi’s mother leaves her unhappy marriage and returns to her father’s home in an isolated weaving village, forsaking her daughter and refusing to see or speak with her until she reaches adulthood. Left in the care of a strict, critical paternal grandmother and an absent father, Megumi, a fifteen-year-old raised as a Christian, stops going to church.
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 1993 Editors’ Choice, 1993 New York Times notable book, an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults, and the Council of Wisconsin Writers Best Novel of 1993.
“Your mother would be very proud. . .” Yuki Okuda heard these words when she was achieving in school, excelling in sports, or displaying her art work. And she could always imagine the unexpressed thought that followed, “. . . if your mother hadn’t killed herself.”