How to Be an American Housewife
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How to Be an American Housewife

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3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  6,909 ratings  ·  962 reviews
A lively and surprising novel about a Japanese woman with a closely guarded secret, the American daughter who strives to live up to her mother's standards, and the rejuvenating power of forgiveness.

How to Be an American Housewife is a novel about mothers and daughters, and the pull of tradition. It tells the story of Shoko, a Japanese woman who married an American GI, and...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published August 5th 2010 by Putnam Adult (first published July 23rd 2010)
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Mary
No. This is not how you write a realistic, moving or compelling memoir.

This was a fast read, and faster still once I decided to plow through it and get it over with. It lacked anything truly thought-provoking or original and the pidgin dialogue used by Shoko, the main character, was irritating and silly - the woman lived in the United States for over 50 years in a community of Caucasians with no other Japanese people around, she would not have this much broken English. I actually have an aunt fr...more
Mia
In many ways, I am similar to the character of Suiko. We're both half Japanese and half Cacuasian with mothers who came to America well after WWII, we grew up speaking only English (and our mothers held off teaching us Japanese for the same reasons: fear of making us less than 100% comfortable with English and giving us disadvantages that "average" American kids would not have), took Japanese in college in the hopes of reconnecting with some lost piece of ourselves, and eventually went to Japan...more
Margaret
I loved this book. Shoko is a beautiful young Japanese woman who, at the end of WWII marries an American GI stationed near her workplace. Her father agrees to this marriage, but not her younger brother. This becomes a source of pain for years afterward. The part of the book that touched me most was how difficult it was for Shoko to fit into her new way of life in a strange country. There was so much she didn't understand, so many things that were permanently etched on her heart and character tha...more
Felice
It's odd to read two books in a row that feature How To pamphlets and assimilation. This may be the only time in my life when that happens, don't you think? The first book was the disappointing Mr Rosenblum Dreams In English and the second was How To Be An American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway. Second time's the charm apparently since Housewife was heavenly.


Housewife is the story of a young Japanese bride who comes to America with her GI husband. Shoko comes of age during WWII and because of...more
Carole
I'm surprised at all the four and five star ratings this book got. It just wasn't a very strong story, and the dark secret that the main character Shoko is hiding from her children is not very novel. I know that Dilloway's own mother was a first-generation Japanese immigrant, but I had a hard time buying the dialogue as spoken by Shoko. Fifty years in the U.S., having raised children who speak perfect English and she still speaks in broken pidgin English? I grew up around the first-generation gr...more
Nicole
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Corinne
I read many books now from the perspective of the writing: is it good, are characters well developed, is the plot well executed, is the pace slow or fast? Reading How to Be an American Housewife from this place was very insightful, as I think it had a lot of potential to be a much better novel.

The pacing is fast, and while I am a fan of writing that moves along at a good clip, there were many opportunities where I wish Dilloway had slowed down to set the scene more vividly. This book could easil...more
Ruby
I thought this book was superb in layout, design, and of course, the somewhat based on true life story. Margaret Dilloway is the daughter of a Japanese woman who married a GI during WWII and emigrated to America. Some of the stories are true, and some are fiction, but the book over all is a tribute to her mother whose radiation weakened heart had problems that caused her death by the time the author was 20.

The story is split into two parts: The Mother, " I had always been a disobedient girl"; a...more
Tara Chevrestt
I have always frowned upon American G.I.'s marrying foreign women and bringing them back. Too many of those women seduce or coerce or manipulate their way over here. There are some cases tho, in which the G.I. has his eyes wide open.. so even tho, I don't think these people are marrying for the right reasons (love), whatever floats their boat.. However, my bias did not get in the way of my enjoying this story. I was able to see and understand the other side of the bargain, in this case, Shoko's...more
Chantelle
I really enjoyed this book. I recommended it for my book club - it seemed like the perfect summer book club book. It definitely delivered. I found it so easy to read, and I really enjoyed the characters and the stories of the main characters, Shoko and Sue. The book was interspersed with excerpts from a how-to guide created for WWII Japanese brides in America. I found those excerpts so interesting and eye-opening. This was a book that was enjoyable, emotional, and yet light and easy to read. Fou...more
Ionia
This is my favourite novel I have read in the New Year. Margaret Dilloway has used fiction to explore the experiences of her mother and her Japanese heritage. In doing so, she has created a book that is emotionally engaging,powerfully heartfelt and entertaining.

From the beginning this book captivated me. I wanted to know more about the two alternating stories, one of a Japanese mother and her life before and after moving to America and the other of her daughter and her life growing up in the US...more
K. Bird
I went into reading this book with very mixed feelings. On one hand, I really wanted to read about what it would have been like for a Japanese wife one generation earlier than my generation in the United States written by somebody, like Margaret Dilloway, who had first hand knowledge (through her mother.)

On the other hand, I cringe alot at books that address certain stereotypes without providing the detailed depth of knowledge about a situation.

And in some ways, I think this book is both success...more
Kelly
I think this was more of a 3.5. It was really hard for me to decide on a rating because even after reading the book I couldn't really decide if I had liked the book or not.

In all, it was a really easy read. From the beginning it was hard to put the book down once I started.

That said, Dilloway did a beautiful job in keeping her readers captivated with the mother-daughter relationship between Sue and Shoko and taking us into the lives of the Japanese during WWII. It is hard to imagine just how d...more
Amy Moritz
One of the most beautiful books I've read in some time, How to Be an American Housewife touches themes of family and specifically mother-daughter relationships in a way that feels authentic and truthful, rather than contrived and preachy. The story focuses on Shoko and is largely written in her voice, but Dilloway's ability to switch narrators into the voice of Shoko's daughter, Sue, is done smoothly and adds, rather than distracts, from the story. It gives an interesting view of Japanese-Americ...more
Victoria Evangelina Belyavskaya

~"NOW BE HAPPY. OK?"~

This is a very kind book with a good ending. It something we not often meet in life and in fiction, too! I gulped it in less than two days not only due to the clear and simple style of writing, truthful dialogue and observations of life, but for I could clearly try on the shoes of being an immigrant in America, something I always felt is not as easy as it may seem to be. "When you marry and integrate with Americans, it is only natural not to have friends. Most American women...more
Michelle Robinson
I so enjoyed reading this book. I was excited when it initially arrived. The premise was pretty novel to me, when you have been reading for a number of years it is hard to find a topic that feel new. How to e an American Housewife delivers.

Shoko, a Japanese woman who married an American in the Navy at the end of World War Two tells us her story in such an interesting fashion. I don't know anything about Japanese culture so, I cannot say how truly authentic this book would feel for someone of tha...more
Meg
I started Margaret Dilloway’s How To Be An American Housewife just before bed last week, distracted by my busy day and unable to calm my worried mind enough to sleep. From the opening sentence, I was surprised at how quickly I sunk into this beautiful, lyrical story — and how enchanted with Dilloway’s world I became. I didn’t put the book down again until 2 a.m. — and only when my eyes were literally shutting.

In this novel centering around identity, growth, healing and motherhood, our protagonis...more
Wendy
2.5 maybe

This is the story of Shoko, a Japanese woman who marries an American GI, and her daughter Sue. As Shoko faces serious health problems and possible death, she enlists Sue's help to make peace with her family left in Japan.

While at first I had some trouble getting into Shoko's story (and kept having moments where I just didn't buy things she was saying) when the story shifted to her daughter Sue's perspective I just didn't like it as much. I don't think the book did a great job of being...more
Arlene Hayman
Being a fourth generation Japanese American, I am always drawn to novels that share the immigrant experience and reveal the experiences of the assimilation process. In this book How to Be an American Housewife, the author shares a tender tale about a Japanese immigrant woman named Shoko who marries an American GI shortly after WWII and emigrates to the United States. Much of the story is revealed through Shoko’s relationship with her own daughter Sue, and the story juxtaposes between their diff...more
Ellyn
Jan 07, 2012 Ellyn rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
This novel tells the story of Shoko, a Japanese woman who marries an American GI following World War II and returns with him to the United States to live, carrying a shameful secret with her. I really enjoyed the first half of the book, which is narrated by Shoko and tells of her early life in Japan and her subsequent move to the States and her struggle to acclimate and adjust to a new (and not entirely friendly) land. The second half of the book is narrated by Sue, Shoko's adult daughter, and t...more
Stephanie
This book is really lacking in moral standards. Just over halfway through I gave up reading it.

It also doesn't have much credibility. For example, one character is a Mormon. The author mentions this character drinking tea in Japan, even though it is a well known fact that Mormons don't drink tea. Then the author focuses on the fact that caffeine is forbidden in his house. Caffeine is considered far less offensive than tea in Mormon culture. This is where the book loses credibility. The author a...more
Jenny Bates


I really loved this book! Told through the voice of a Japanese woman who marries an American soldier, then later through her daughter, I liked both voices equally. I identified with both mother and daughter. I was fascinated by the Japanese culture throughout the book, which surprised me. I am usually not a fan of books that involved Asian culture, but this book presented this culture in such a way that made me want to learn more about the religion and the customs as a whole

The one complaint I...more
Patricia
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel about an elderly Japanese woman named Shoko and her American daughter. When Shoko was a young woman, her father encouraged her to marry an American because her future prospects in Japan were limited after the Second World War. She dates several American servicemen before marrying Charlie Morgan. After Charlie is transferred to America in the 1950s, Shoko moves there with him. For guidance on adjusting to life in the United States, Shoko turns to a book entitled "H...more
Jennifer
From My Blog...[return][return]How To Be An American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway is a beautiful story of love, family and traditions encompassing four generations of women. The novel is told through the beautiful voice of Shoko who takes the reader through her life in Japan, her culture, heritage and how she came to be an American wife of a naval officer. The novel tells of her daughter Suiko and her daughter Helena, who at Shoko’s request, travel to Japan, a culture Suiko “Sue” never identif...more
Nschafer


This book could have been so much better, but it just fell flat and made me lose interest earlier on. I plowed through it hoping that it would get better, but it never did. The 12 year old daughter of Sue's was truly irritating - she didn't appeared to be like any other 12 year olds I've ever encountered. Also, Shoko, Sue's Japanese mother, in her 50 years of living in America, still spoke such stereo-typical English, was unrealistic. She never picked up using verbs or adverbs in her sentences?...more
Michelle
Good but not great. I enjoy immigrant stories. This is the story of a young woman in Japan during WWII who marries an American serviceman and comes to the US.

The title of the book is also the title of a fictional book the main character consults as she attempts to assimilate here. Every chapter begins with an excerpt. These fictional excerpts were the best part of the book.

Here is an example:
"American households do not have the tatami mat as Japanese households do. Nor do Americans remove their...more
kathleen
I really enjoyed this book as I love stories about mothers and daughters and their traditions. This is a novel about a Japanese mother with a closely guarded secret who marries an American GI and an American daughter struggling to please her mother. This novel explores Japanese culture and trying to fit into an american world. Each short chapter has a quote from the Book "How to be an American Housewife" with tips on fitting into the American culture, pleasing your husband, and understanding the...more
Kathy Hiester
As everyone know by now I love books that give a peek into a different culture than my own and since this book had a way of merging the Japanese and American culture together, it was right up my alley. The first half of the book is told through Shoko's eyes as she grows up in Japan and eventually becomes a war bride and lives her adult life in the United States Shoko is elderly and has a heart problems she wants to go back to Japan to make amends with her brother. Due to an her illness she can n...more
Margaret
As a "konketsu" mixed-race, half Japanese, half Greek daughter of an American GI Marine and Japanese mom ... finding this book that I can truly identify with has been a joy. Although my mom is four years younger than the character Shoko, my mom's stories mirror hers in so many ways. The character of Sue or Suiko lives her youth, in many respects, as I did mine.

Aside from the joy of finding a book with very much my own life story, I hope others will enjoy the plot and the character relationships....more
Amy
I was really eager to read this book, even requested it from the public library. I jumped right into it, and continued to be eager to read it, right through to the end...but not without wincing several times, rolling my eyes and turning down pages so I would be able to go back and find the things that bugged me. It's difficult to not criticize flaws in a book when everyone else seems to rave about it and I can't believe the issues I have with it weren't glaring to every reader!

For starters, it's...more
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Margaret Dilloway is the author of HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE and the upcoming THE CARE AND HANDLING OF ROSES WITH THORNS (August 2012).

Dilloway lives in Southern California with her husband and their three young children. Her blog, “American Housewife,” can be found on her website, www.margaretdilloway.com.
More about Margaret Dilloway...
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“Mothers were the only ones you could depend on to tell the whole, unvarnished truth.” 31 likes
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