A year ago, I read an excerpt of Kyoko Mori’s memoir, The Dream of Water, in a writing class. My classmated commented on her ability to write about her mother’s horrific suicide with a distanced voice. We had to keep in mind her Japanese background and the cultural importance of not appearing over-emotional.
I came across Yarn: Remembering the Way Home in the library. Mori’s memoir does touch upon her difficult childhood–losing her mother and suffering an abusive father–but it’s more focused on her marriage. She becomes enamored with knitting, a common task Japanese women practice as they prepare for a well-matched marriage. While Mori’s girlfriends in Japan started their preparation to becoming a wife and mother, she pursued graduate school in the United States and married an American.
Yarn is a well-crafted memoir that delves into the history of knitting along with Japanese folk tales and Mori’s own personal experiences as she tries to figure out her future in the Midwest. Her reflections on her childhood are heartbreaking, but powerful. Her confession of disliking children and having no inclination to be a mother was personally a breath of fresh air! I was personally thrilled to read a memoir by a successful writer who plans to live without children. I think if you want kids, that’s great, but I like to see those people who are celebrating a different way of living, if that makes sense!
My only criticism with the story was that there never seemed to be any romance between her and her husband, Chuck. They were married for twelve years, so I have to think they were more romantic. But Mori’s narration seems so distanced, that it’s hard to grieve their separation.
But perhaps that was Mori’s intention all along. Her narration makes their marriage appear to be one of amicable friends than people in love. And in the end, Mori’s termination of the marriage seemed to be the right answer. Even when Chuck contacts her years later to say he is remarrying, I didn’t feel any pangs of jealousy. Only the sadness that she probably won’t be able to communicate with Chuck as frequently as they had in the past.
Mori is an English professor who teaches creative writing. There are some passages where she discusses her classes. I found it interesting how she encouraged her students to focus on the small, trivial things while writing and to reflect on their bigger meaning. One of my favorites is when the jock student in her class, comes to her office and tells her a story. He was running outside with his girlfriend and in front of them, was a large hole. There is a small path around the hole, but they couldn’t pass through together. Instead of slowing down, both of them started to race, hoping to beat the other and get to the small path around the hole. At that moment, he had an epiphany and he knew his relationship was over. I’m going to try to do that more in my own practice.