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How to Be an American Housewife

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  12,611 ratings  ·  1,398 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, an
Hardcover, 277 pages
Published August 5th 2010 by G.P. Putnam's Sons (first published July 23rd 2010)
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Kara Who cares? It can be an amazing book but you won't read it because of profanity? That's just so odd to me.

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Average rating 3.63  · 
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 ·  12,611 ratings  ·  1,398 reviews

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Jan 25, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2012, fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 18, 2015 rated it liked it
This is really a chic-lit book with a soul embedded in realism. Entertaining and well written. A feel-good, heart-warming experience while getting to know a beautiful spirit.

Everyone has a life-changing experience, including Shoko's husband, Charlie, and her son, Mike, when Shoko lands in ICU and must undergo a heart operation. From that moment on, nothing can be taken for granted anymore and forgiveness becomes the most important goal for Shoko.

Three women, a mother(Shoko), her daughter(Sue) an
Mar 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From the negative reviews this has received, my expectations were pretty low; however I actually did like it very much throughout. But then I am partial anyway to most of the authors who turn out these Asian culture treasures (Amy Tan, Lisa See, Gail Tsukiyami, etc.). Before I joined GR and my reading list expanded like the waistbands of the Japanese who come here and eat our American food, these authors made up about 75% of what I read. I don't know how I missed Margaret Dilloway, but I will de ...more
Apr 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was the oldest book on my TBR (6/18/2012). I really liked it and flew through. Haven't done that in a while.

I forgot to miss that joyful little girl until she was already grown up and gone.

The person I used to be could have made only one choice; the grown-up Shoko might have made a different one. That was how life was. You only figured out the right thing after you were old.

In Japan, if you want to have more, you eat it all. If you are done, leave a little food on your plate.

To my other, th
Jul 14, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Nov 10, 2012 rated it it was ok

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
Oct 28, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Aug 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 16, 2011 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Suzie Fullmer
Feb 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
Didn't hate it. Didn't love it. The story and characters were both just kind of blah.
Victoria Evangelina Allen
Apr 14, 2011 rated it really liked it


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
K. Lincoln
Dec 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 15, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Oct 25, 2012 rated it it was ok
This book was underwhelming and lacking...substance.

A friend passed the book along to me because she knew my affinity for Japanese and American relations before and after WWII. This book seemed so promising and the initial reviews I saw were overwhelmingly positive. But I must say having forced myself to finish the book, I only like two things: the cover (thanks Penguin) and the snippets from the fictitious book How to Be an American Housewife which appear at the start of each chapter. It is onl
Jan 07, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Jan 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 31, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Susan (aka Just My Op)
Jun 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Susan (aka Just My Op) by: Tara
A young Japanese girl living not far from Nagasaki during the bombing at the end of WWII later marries an Irish-American stationed in Japan. Not out of love but because this is her best choice, the person her father chose for her from a stack of photos.

This novel includes wonderful quotes, advice from the fictitious book How to be an American Housewife. But it is really a story about family, secrets, assimilation and alienation, about forgiveness.

I love reading about cultures other than my own a
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
Aug 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Very rarely does a book so profoundly sit with me. More than once while reading this book I could actually see my Grandma doing these exact things. It was so eye opening to read about the struggles she felt after coming to the states. Tears were shed but because of the memories it evoked in me. Beautifully written, I loved how both mother and daughter got parts of the book.
Three hundred pages later: I don't know what I was expecting.

This book has a HUGE build-up towards the daughter (Suiko) of the first protagonist to possibly be rejected from her mission. The mother character (Shoko) keeps repeating fear that her brother would turn away Suiko at the door while she, herself, is on her sickbed, unable to go. Throughout the book, we're shown many flashbacks about how the brother character (Taro) was so spiteful towards Americans during World War II, specifically
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
Arlene Hayman
May 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
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
Jul 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
Sep 18, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jan 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
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
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Margaret started writing stories in kindergarten. Ever since then, she's used writing to understand the world and entertain people.

She loves improv, attempting complicated baking recipes, hiking, and dollhouse miniatures.

-MOMOTARO: XANDER AND THE LOST ISLAND OF MONSTERS: Winner of the American Library Association's Asian/Pacific American Librarian

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