Nashwa M.'s Reviews > Grandfather's Journey

Grandfather's Journey by Allen Say
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Feb 18, 12

bookshelves: asian-literature
Read in February, 2012

Grandfather’s Journey chronicalizes Allen Say’s family history starting with his father leaving his homeland of Japan to see the world. After touring the United States, Allen Say’s grandfather decides to make California his home. Later, he returns to Japan to wed and bring back his bride. In California, Allen Say’s mother is born and raised. His grandfather becomes homesick for Japan, and ultimately decides to move back to his native homeland. Ironically, Allan Say’s grandfather then becomes homesick for his adopted homeland and is torn because he can not be in two places at once.

Grandfather’s Journey simply warmed my heart! Allen Say fondly retraces his grandfather travels, but doesn’t loose sight of the emotional trauma that his grandfather feels, a displacement that is felt by many immigrants when they migrate from one homeland to another. Here, he manages to captures this immigrant experience, and the emotional tool it took because of the unstoppable yearning to in one place, but want the other. You never feel like you’re finally home.

Reading Grandfather’s Journey, I was keenly aware of its authenticity, remembering that it was one of the earlier books I was introduced to in our class. I took in all the rich details, such as the garden designs, placements of the shoes in relation to the sitting area, and the kimonos. The illustration on the last page really made me think. Allan Say’s illustration is of him and his grandfather, but the picture is telling. Allan tenderly stands behind his grandfather, comfortably seated and dressed in traditional Japanese garb. Allan has his hands tenderly placed over his grandfather’s shoulders, and there’s a look on both faces that reflect a combination of respect, affection, tenderness, and pride that is strongly communicated to me. This portrait really reiterates these societal values of deep respect and honor given to one’s elders. I found it admirable.

Another point that caught my eye in the last illustration was what Allen Say wore in the portrait style picture: a red Christmas-style sweater, with an image of a reindeer in the center. This is clearly not traditional Japanese garb (At the time presumably) for what would have otherwise been a very traditional Japanese style portrait. But the illustration is also a clear indication that Allan is very aware of what his grandfather’s yearns for again. After Reading Tree of Cranes, I was able to confirm hat Christmas was a highly held memory that his family had cherished from their time living in America.

I would of course highly recommend this book. I read it to my two girls and asked them what it reminded them of, my oldest was able to tell me that it reminded her of when I left my home, and asked me if that’s how I had felt too. Grandfather’s Journey is yet another great way to share with students the great American immigrant experience.
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