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The Floating World

3.37  ·  Rating Details  ·  112 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
Twelve-year-old Olivia, her parents, grandmother, and three younger brothers search for better times as they travel by car though the United States, encountering racism, friendship, and the magic in ordinary life. (Nancy Pearl)
Paperback, 208 pages
Published March 23rd 1993 by Ballantine Books (first published 1989)
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Kira-Kira by Cynthia KadohataMy Year of Meats by Ruth OzekiThe Floating World by Cynthia KadohataA Tale for the Time Being by Ruth OzekiWhen the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
Japanese American Authors
3rd out of 64 books — 6 voters
The Lightning Queen by Laura ResauThe Lions of Little Rock by Kristin LevineMy Louisiana Sky by Kimberly Willis HoltLunch-Box Dream by Tony AbbottKeeping Score by Linda Sue Park
Middle Grade set in the 1950s
37th out of 45 books — 7 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 286)
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Aug 10, 2007 Stephen rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite quotes from the novel:

“I worked part time at the hatchery but then got another job, keeping an elderly man company three times a week. I read to him, listened to the radio with him, cleaned for him. We used to spend hours together raking leaves quietly, even going beyond his property, just for the pleasure of raking. His property was full of trees, and leaves would be spread all over, varying in color from the reds and golds of autumn to pastel greens, the leaves seemingly enc
Feb 24, 2014 Jim rated it liked it
Although the blurbs say the book is narrated through the eyes of a twelve-year old Japanese American girl, this really isn't so; it is narrated almost as a memoir by an older woman looking back on various incidents of her life from 12 til 21. In fact, at times, it was jarring that the voice seemed to try to be simplistic, yet at same time employed words or ideas a younger person wouldn't use. No matter, it is still an interesting story that gives insights into what life was like for the author ( ...more
Beautifully written, in an understatedly poetic way. Kadohata paints a portrait of a girl's growing-up in a Japanese-American family that moves from Oregon to Arkansas in "the fifties and sixties," and evokes characters, time, and place, with a few swift brushstrokes. One gets the sense of the world as a rich and mysterious place. The book reminded me a little of The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver: there's something similar in the two novels' treatment of life.

I like that Kadohata's characters
May 20, 2012 Jessica rated it liked it
There were some lovely moments in the book, where the writing was poetic and the author touched on truth. But those moments were transient and overall I had a difficult time liking the characters and thought the moments spliced together in this coming of age story were random and not particularly interesting or insightful.
Aug 05, 2012 Jane rated it liked it
This is a novel which is actually a series of linked stories about life in an itinerant Japanese family. The narrator, the oldest girl, Olivia, has a detached narrative voice. The descriptions of her work at the chicken hatchery, the area of Arkansas in which she lives and her relationship with her grandmother are evocative and sometimes frightening. It's a really interesting, but not compelling in the way most novels are. For example, there's something so much life an essay-quality to these cha ...more
Sep 14, 2009 Paula rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I am such a fan of Kadohata's post-apocalyptic In the Heart of the Valley of Love (1992), which I read many years ago that I've been hoping ever since for a new novel by this author. Alas! It appears that she now writes solely for young readers. The Floating World is Kadohata's first novel (1989). It's an elegant and often quirky coming-of-age story, well-written and enjoyable to read. Olivia, the "heroine," recounts the somewhat non-linear story of her childhood, adolescence, and young adulthoo ...more
Sep 10, 2015 Noemi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting book about how a girl with an unusual and highly mobile family grows up and develops her own personality, morality and understanding of "home".

I happened to read this side-by-side with The Glass Castle which made for an interesting study in intersectionality, especially since the two families lived in a few similar places at similar times.
Oct 25, 2010 Rachel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asian-american
This episodic first novel takes place in the 1950s and '60s and is narrated by Olivia Osaka, who we follow from age 12 to 22, first as she travels with her family from Oregon to Arkansas and later as she strikes out on her own in Los Angeles. The floating world of the title refers to the circumstances that keep the family moving through motel towns and temporary jobs, but to Olivia it also refers to both the happiness and the loneliness of an unstable world. It's beautifully written and melancho ...more
Apr 03, 2016 Rebecca rated it really liked it
Almost nothing happens but it's really really interesting. How do authors do that? Kadohata's tone is weird and kind of funny, a little optimistic, a little bleak, lonely and loyal. This book reads with the simplicity of a diary or a memoir-- with weird memories whose surreality makes them believable. Swimming to a half-sunk boat and finding a pair of shoes, pictures proliferating on the family shrine, excruciating every day marital doubts and pains...

The road is that "floating world"-- the tran
Aug 29, 2007 Pam rated it liked it
I originally read it because I was interested in reading a memoir by a Japanese-American writer. This book was not what I expected. Each chapter felt like a vignette of the narrator's transition from childhood to adulthood. The setting was very similar to her book, Kira Kira. Both books take place in the south with parents working in chicken processing plants. It was very different from the Japanese-American experience here in the bay area, I think.
Dec 18, 2015 Apteryx rated it liked it
A very interesting read.
Aug 01, 2010 Melinda rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
I've read much better coming-of-age stories. This one was an example of lazy storytelling for me. Nothing quite connected or meant very much. A disappointment after reading Danticat's novel.
Alessandra Simmons
May 14, 2009 Alessandra Simmons rated it it was ok
Interesting story, look at the US from POV of coming of age japanese american. It read like a memoir. Why did it read like a memoir? I can't quite figure itout.
Oct 06, 2008 Bill rated it it was amazing
Just because a character has a fucked-up childhood doesn't mean that they go on to greatness or despair. Too bad Kadohata moved onto being a children's author.
Mar 02, 2014 Sarah rated it did not like it
Shelves: unfinished
This book fell behind behind my bed some time last November. I have not yet bothered to pick it up off the floor, nor do I intend to.
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Cynthia Kadohata is a Japanese American writer known for writing coming of age stories about Asian American women.

She spent her early childhood in the South; both her first adult novel and first children's novel take place in Southern states. Her first adult novel was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

Her first children's book, Kira-Kira, won the 2005 Newbery Medal. Her first published s
More about Cynthia Kadohata...

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