Friday, November 23, 2012

American Woman : Susan Choi

American Woman
by Susan Choi

An exploration of the perspectives of a Japanese-American woman radical, Jenny, two younger radicals, Juan and Yvonne, and a kidnapped-turned-radical, Pauline, who are brought together to hide away from the authorities.

There is a plot, but a large chunk of the novel is the four hiding away and therefore, it becomes a more introspective look into the characters (mainly Jenny), their relationships, memories and motivations.

The reasoning behind their domestic terrorist-like actions, while not that interesting, were possibly not something that could have been improved.  The reasons come across as overly abstract and black and white, similar if a college kid tried to explain their extreme stance on an issue.

Slightly more interesting was the evolving relationships between Pauline, and her kidnappers, Juan and Yvonne: from kidnapped to accepting of the radicalism to rejection of their particular radicalism in favor of a different radicalism.

Choi also delves a bit into Jenny's father backstory of being a prisoner in the Japanese imprisonment camps during WWII, which has some interest since this doesn't get much coverage in media or history classes.

It's also slightly unique that there's an Asian American character and some coverage in her (and her father's) discomfort in not fitting into either the Japanese or American cultures.

But all in all, the threads don't really come together.  And even if they had, none of the characters really come across as all that sympathetic, so there's no emotional payoff because there was initial emotionally investment to start with.

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