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自分が読んで興味深く感じた英文記事を中心に取り上げる予定です

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Yokohama Yankee

 

Yokohama Yankee: My Family's Five Generations As Outsiders in JapanYokohama Yankee: My Family's Five Generations As Outsiders in Japan
(2013/03/12)
Leslie Helm

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宣教師ヘボンさんの展覧会に行った折に見つけた本ですが、時間が出来たのでようやく読み始めたところでした。開国直後から横浜にやってきて商売を初めてHelm一家の歴史を社史のように自慢気に語るだけではないかとあまり期待していなかったのですが、歴史に翻弄される一家の話だけでなく、著者自身の愛憎入り交じった日本への思いなど、ロサンゼルスタイムズの記者を務めていた方が書いていたこともあり興味深く読み進められる本でした。





ジャパンタイムズが6月に書評に取り上げていました。何度も書いていますが、日本関連の本を紹介してくれるジャパンタイムズの存在は本当に貴重です。

BOOKS / REVIEWS
Scrutinizing identity through one’s family
BY MICHAEL HOFFMAN
JUN 9, 2013

Lucky great-grandfather Julius. This first member of the Helm family to settle in Japan was “as rooted in his German identity as an old oak tree.” For his mixed-race descendants, life would not be so simple.

Yokohama in 1869 had something of the “wild west” about it. Twenty years earlier it had been a backwater fishing village of 80 households. Japan then had been a “closed country.” Now it was open a crack, the Black Ships of the American Navy having demanded and secured trading privileges in the 1850s. Yokohama, possessing a natural harbor, grew into Japan’s biggest foreign settlement. “The scum of Europe,” was one British visitor’s acid summation of the crowd he met there.

Julius Helm (1840-1922) was a German farm boy who aimed to better himself and migrated to the United States. The life there didn’t satisfy him, and he thought next of China. He boarded a train to San Francisco but missed the China boat “by the length of my nose.” The next boat out was bound for Yokohama. So to Yokohama he went. The year was 1869.

この書評でメイントピックと語っていますが、日本で暮らしながらも見た目からどうしても外人扱いされて過ごさざるを得なかった自分のアイデンティティの揺れが冒頭から語られています。

“Yokohama Yankee” is more than the history of a business and more than the history of a family. Former Los Angeles Times journalist Leslie Helm, Julius Helm’s great-grandson, was born in Yokohama in 1955. His real theme is identity — identities, rather. Most people have one, some have none, others have multiple identities that clash and clamor rather than harmonize.

His real theme is identity — identities, rather.とidentityが複数形で語られるのは日英バイリンガルでありながらもhe was neither quite Japanese nor quite Americanという状況だったからでしょう。そのような状況を受け止められるようになるにはそれなりの時間が必要で、養子にもらった子供にようやく気づかされることになったようです。

The author’s own childhood was full of anomalies. A Japan-born American citizen, perfectly bilingual, he was neither quite Japanese nor quite American. What was he, then — a “gaijin”? Is a word that essentially means “non-Japanese” — a pure negative — an adequate identity? Years later he would agonize over whether some of the derogatory reporting he did from Japan was honest criticism or subconscious revenge against the culture that had excluded him.

He and his American wife adopted two Japanese children and discovered new dimensions of the identity crisis. “Why is my skin so dark?” his daughter Mariko would ask as a child. At 16 she was saying, “I realize that it is us, our family, who have to teach people that it’s OK to look different.” But it was a long rocky road, with probably more rocks ahead.

参拝したこととその是非をどのメディアも大きく取り上げられていて、あたかも国と国民いうのが一つの実態としてあるような感じがしてしまいますが、人々のありようはそんな金太郎飴みたいに同質なものでくくってしまうことはできないのだなと改めて感じることができました。

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