On Finding Myself As A Sansei

On Finding Myself As A Sansei

Ken Saiki

Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

My nisei mother wanted to make sure her four children — all born before or during World War II — would be thoroughly Americanized and not face the same hardships she encountered growing up. Her thinking was undoubtedly influenced by the period’s wartime hysteria.

She gave us English names at birth, made sure we attended Sunday School each week and spoke only English at home, even though Dad was actually born in Japan. She would sometimes caution Dad if she thought he was acting too “Japanese.” Assimilating into the American mainstream meant tossing out revered customs and traditions and adapting to new ways.

As if to prepare us for eating at a “real” American home, she’d sometimes break out the flatware and we’d have dishes like roast leg of lamb for dinner. “This is what haole people eat,” we would learn. When I told other kids what we had for dinner, they couldn’t believe those cute animals could be eaten.


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