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Bich Minh Nguyen writes about the intermingling of cultural desire through food in her memoir Stealing Buddha’s Dinner. The obsessions with unobtainable foods and everyday foods come across clearly in indexes of American junk foods and experientially local family foods. Nguyen’s childhood – at least as indicated in her memoir – was filled with a cross-cultural desire that at first was met by her father, yet later restrained by her stepmother Rosa. Although this restraint of junk food induced a certain resentment, Rosa also introduced her family’s foods to the Nguyen family. Food experience and culture are intimately linked to common family experiences of mealtimes and celebrations. And as with any childhood, Nguyen was exposed to desires outside her control, as well as culture to which she had to adjust. Unlike Americans generations deep in the U.S., however, Nguyen’s father did not have the cultural awareness to ground her new experiences, as many of them were new to him, as well. Nguyen’s ambivalence for this liminal state of being pulled in two (or even three) cultural directions is represented by the nostalgia with which she writes about the various food obsessions she had as a child. As many American writers, Nguyen writes about her obsession and her family, creating a space in the literary tradition for her multivalent existence in a multi-cultural immigrant family.
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One primary shortcoming of film is the reduced ability to fully convey a cultural milieu. The need to compress content to fit within the confines of a film necessitates removing many scenes, easily conveyed in novels, which are able to present the kind of cultural environment which promotes understanding across unfamiliar audiences. This reduction can be managed, but in the environment of study across textual mediums, still becomes readily apparent as evidenced in Picture Bride. Kayo Hatta’s film centers on the immigration experience of Japanese to Hawai’i’s sugar cane plantations. While many aspects of culture are exhibited in the film, they are often forced into reductionary examples rather than consistent themes.
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Beyond the reading of colonial oppression (or subjugation) parallelism between Akiko’s marriage and the Japanese occupation of Korea in Nora Okja Keller’s Comfort Woman, resides the important parallel results of the same. The effects of the Japanese occupation from 1910 to 1945 (Mukherjee, 197) are mirrored in the experiences both Akiko and Beccah have in the United States. Keller’s representation of Akiko’s life in the “public restrooms” (108) (or comfort camps) helps to pull the stitches tight between these two images by presenting the reader with one character who experiences the results of both occupation and immigration. Keller reinforces the immigrant experience parallel through Akiko’s daughter, Beccah, who observes her mother’s unraveling. In addition to witnessing her mother’s “craziness,” Beccah manages to experience much of the immigrant condition despite living in Hawaii. If the reader were to understand Akiko and the other women and girls of the comfort camp as embodying the Korean nation, Beccah quite literally combines Korea and the U.S., resulting in a young woman who cannot quite locate her place of belonging. Although not as savagely abused as her mother, Beccah also experiences a dislocation, ironically only discovering place after Akiko dies.
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