“I wish my house was underneath Kaunakakai Groceteria…. In my bedroom there’s a secret door up to the groceteria, which I could sneak into at night, after everyone went home. Then I can choose anything I want to eat when I get hungry…. And I would take Maisie and you with me too, so we can get all the ingredients we need to make the biggest laulau dinner, the whole works–day-old poi, lomi salmon, haupia, pipi kaula, and squid luau, just for the three of us, and Poppy.” (9)
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Blu’s Hanging is one of the most captivating works in Japanese literature. Lois-Ann Yamanaka, the author of the novel, presents a wonderful story about one family, Ogatas, the members of which try to survive in these terrible conditions and not lose their dignity and lives in Kaunakakai.
Yamanaka starts introducing the major characters and describes how three children have to live without their mother, face numerous modern problems, and be ready to cope with them. Ivah is the oldest child in this family. She has to take care of her two siblings, Maisie and Blu.
She is the author of the citation, chosen for consideration. These words help to underline the fact that this little girl has nothing to do but forget about her own dreams and helps her relatives. Even if this phrase is all about food and girl’s dreams, it is not that difficult to find out the issues, which are much more serious and significant.
In comparison to her younger siblings, she is introduced as a judicious person. Even in the questions of food, she remains devoted to her own tastes and traditions. The meal that may satisfy the girl is not Asian but Hawaiian. Only “laulau dinner” will stop her hunger. She wants to find her family and herself in Hawaii only. It is their homeland, where they can really be happy and even free.
The problem of race and ethnicity will never be forgotten in literature. People suffer so much from such inequality and fear to be used by another race, higher than their own. Specially, it concerns children. They do not have enough power to resist the already existed rules. They have nothing to do but accept these rules and follow the current flow. Their dreams, hopes, and feelings do not really matter. The ideas of violence and power will be always on their ways.
Is it possible to analyze the character by his/her tastes and preferences in food? To my mind, it is quite real. The language, used by the author, is not that difficult to understand. It underlines rather simple and kind nature of Ivah. She does not want to use complicated words in everyday language; however, she is aware of some traditional food. This fact underlines her knowledge and abilities to learn and remember more things, which are really interesting.
The presence of food in the first chapter is rather significant for the whole novel. One of the most important components of our existence is food. Unfortunately, not all writers pay enough attention to this very issue. Lois-Ann Yamanaka chooses one of the most correct ways to introduce her characters and their problems.
Attention to such details allows the reader to comprehend what may bother ordinary children without parents and without future. The focus on such fact also helps the reader trace how the preferences of the major characters may be changed, taking into consideration the appeared consequences.
The problems of race inequality, national identity, and imperialism are crucial indeed. However, not every reader may grasp their essence if the author just states such difficult for the analysis words.
A clear explanation of the same terms by means of known to everyone words about food, cloth, houses – this is what can be really helpful for the reader. This is what Lois-Ann Yamanaka chooses for her Blu’s Hanging, and this is why the reader easily gets an understanding of dark and unfair times, when an ordinary Japanese family lives.
Yamanaka, Lois-Ann. Blu’s Hanging. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997.