Monday, May 21, 2007

book review: talking to high monks in the snow

This weekend I finished Talking to High Monks in the Snow by Lydia Minatoya, a memoir about a Japanese-American searching for identity. It was written often like a prose poem, small moments and fractions of her journey to Japan, to China, to Nepal, and the search for self. I loved envisioning these places and these experiences, and I loved the honesty in her own tone.

There were two moments I marked that stood out to me.

The first, because it spoke to my own situation in life. A colleague of mine confessed to me something along the lines of, "I admire how much you are sticking to the rules of the occupation. I wouldn't be doing [those things I am doing]." I have three weeks left, and I'm still dutifully working, more or less, as I did before. Perhaps my prep time is spent a little more distractedly, but I'm maintaining professional behavior and experiencing the duties put forth for the next three weeks. After that, of course, we all have great freedom to embrace, but until then, I am going to grade carefully, I'm going to stay after with those that need help, and I'm going to outline the last weeks of the semester as it comes to a close.

This quote spoke to me, so perfectly, why it is that I am choosing instead to be content with the last few weeks of working here. I could so easily slip into anger and indignation; I have a great case for it. But instead, it is serendipitous, after all. (As I was driving to school this morning, I got to the end of town, ten minutes into my near-hour long commute and I thought, "If I get this job, I'd have been at work for four minutes already instead of just beginning the journey.")

pg. 21

My father's voice was calm. "For over thirty years, I have awoken each morning with an eagerness to go to my lab," he said. "I am proud to have had an opportunity to do the work I love."

"But they exploited you! It was racial discrimination!"

My father studied his American daughters. He gently smiled. "Before I could sue, I would have to review my life. I would have to doubt the wisdom of loyalty. I would have to call myself a victim and fill myself with bitterness." He searched our faces for signs of comprehension. "I cannot bear so great a loss."

This, too, spoke to me, though I think I won't ruin it with my own interpretation and let you think, instead, of what it means to you.

pg. 52

"I hate to sound like I'm manufacturing angst in the face of bounty," says Ann, "but what's more valuable to us--our life as it has been or as it could be?"

Reading next: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (always reminding me of the film title: Eat, Drink, Man, Woman, which was a lovely film indeed).

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