115. Tea With Milk by Allen Say
Retell: Masako is a Japanese-American who moves to Japan after spending her childhood in America. Adjusting to life in Japan is rough for Masako. She must repeat high school in order to learn Japanese, her classmates call her gaijin (a derogatory word for ‘foreigner’), and she must learn how to be a proper Japanese lady. One day she boards a bus for Osaka and finds work, a companion and a cure for her homesickness.
Topics: English, Japanese-Americans, homesickness, culture shock, matchmaking, individuality
Units of Study: Character, Social Issues, Personal Narrative, Memoir
Tribes: right to pass
Habits of Mind: taking responsible risks, thinking flexibly
Reading Skills: inference, interpretation, prediction, empathy
My Thoughts: I especially enjoy Tea With Milk because I have a personal connection to this book. I taught English for three years in a rural village in Japan. I can relate to May and her struggle to get used to sitting on the floor (women are expected to sit on their knees–it’s considered rude to sit cross-legged) and missing comfort foods. When I read this book I thought of my students who often visit the countries where their parents are from and experience an identity crisis similar to the one that May faced. I hope that this book inspires them to write their stories. Though this is technically a personal narrative (the main character was the author’s mother) you could angle this to fit in many different units including the current Character unit. It’s particularly useful for modeling how readers notice subtle changes in a character.
Entry filed under: Asian-American Authors, Male authors, Picture Books. Tags: character, culture shock, empathy, English, friendship, homesickness, individuality, inference, interpretation, Japanese-Americans, matchmaking, memoir, personal narrative, prediction, right to pass, social issues, taking responsible risks, thinking flexibly.