R.I.P. Yoko Kawashima Watkins, 88, in Dec. 2021 (author: "So Far from t
From Lenona@21:1/5 to All on Sat Jan 7 10:36:10 2023
Born to Japanese parents in Harbin, Manchuria (now China), her family moved to North Korea in the 1930s. She graduated from Kyoto University and immigrated to the U.S. in 1955. She lived in Brewster, Massachusetts.
Her other children's books are Tales from the Bamboo Grove (1992) and My Brother, My Sister, and I (1996).
Yoko Kawashima Watkins died December 8 at her home in Brewster, MA. She was the author of the fictionalized memoirs So Far from the Bamboo Grove, and My Brother, My Sister, and I. Her father, a highly placed diplomat, was stationed in Harbin, China at
the time of her birth in 1933. He was soon sent to Nanam, in northern Korea, where he attempted to act as a buffer between the Korean population and the often-brutal Japanese occupiers. Nanam was the site of the home in a bamboo grove from which 11-year-
old Yoko, her sister Ko, her brother Hideyo, and their mother fled in 1945 when Japan lost the war. Their survival as refugees forms the narratives of the two books. In 1952, Yoko married an American serviceman, Donald Watkins, and moved to the U.S. So
Far from the Bamboo Grove was first published in 1986, and became the vehicle for hundreds of school visits, at which Yoko spoke to thousands of children about being a mischievous child, about the value of being true to one's best self, and the
importance of peace. She wrote personal answers to many hundreds of children, expressing her belief in each as a strong, good person.
Many teachers in the northeast invited her to speak year after year, and children loved hearing her complaints about her "bossy big sister." Despite occasional controversy, the invitations continued. Of the many honors that came her way, she especially
treasured her young readers, and her visit with Mother Teresa. Her books have remained in print in the U.S., and So Far from the Bamboo Grove has become a bestseller in Japan.
Mrs. Kawashima Watkins is survived by her husband Donald, sons Donald, Ronald, and John; a daughter, Michelle; and grandchildren Dominic, Jessica, and Jonathan. She was preceded in death by her beloved "'bossy big sister," Ko Kawashima Patten and their
brother, Hideyo Kawashima. A memorial service will be held at a later date. Donations in Yoko's memory may be made to the PTA of any middle school to help students who need support to afford field trips or music lessons.
From elsewhere, about So Far from the Bamboo Grove:
"Yoko Kawashima, though Japanese, spent most of her childhood in Nanam, Korea, where she attended Japanese schools and studied the classical arts of Japan. She was only 7 when Japan entered World War II in 1941. Four years later, amid the chaos of Japan'
s defeat and the rising terror of anti-Japanese hostility, Kawashima, her mother, and older sister fled from their home and began a life-or-death trek to Seoul, Korea. In So Far From the Bamboo Grove, Kawashima retold her family's struggle to survive
hunger, pain, and enemy fire and to forge a new future in Japan."
"In the final days of World War II, Koreans were determined to take back control of their country from the Japanese and end the suffering caused by the Japanese occupation. As an eleven-year-old girl living with her Japanese family in northern Korea,
Yoko is suddenly fleeing for her life with her mother and older sister, Ko, trying to escape to Japan, a country Yoko hardly knows."
...Several girls in different clusters asked if she had ever become friends with the girls at her school. Her answer was a definite “No!” They had called her names, made fun of her raggedy clothes, called her trashpicker because she was poor and had
to rummage through the trash to find paper for her school lessons, made fun of her deafness, and bullied her every day. When she wanted to retaliate, she remembered her parents telling her three things: a) no matter the circumstances, don’t lose your
temper, b) throw away your pride, and c) forgive. She felt able to do the first two, but admitted to having difficulty with the third. When she made the decision to follow her parent’s advice, she gained two invisible friends “hope” and “dream,”
which followed her throughout her life.
When asked, Yoko told the story of how she had been inspired to write her book. When she first visited the U.S., she stayed with a host family and met their very spoiled 15 year old daughter. This young teen was very rude to her parents, complained of
having nothing to eat (despite a full refrigerator), complained of having nothing to wear (despite a closet full of clothes), smoked in the house, ground out her cigarette on the banister before stomping upstairs, and was very rude to Yoko and her
parents for the rest of the day. Yoko had written the girl a 10 page letter telling her to appreciate what she had, then decided not to mail it because she realized the girl was spoiled because her parents had raised her that way and realized her letter
wouldn’t change her behavior. Several years later, she wound up expanding those 10 pages to 50 for a writing assignment, and it became the beginnings of the book...