‘Yoshiko and the Foreigner’ (Review)

yoshiko and the foreigner book review

Recently I reviewed “How My Parents Learned To Eat” and how it’s a great example of a “big-picture” story to men/women relationships – all couched in a delicious recounting about eating with chopsticks vs. forks and spoons.

(Coming from my own Eurasian background, this was such a treat to share with my young children!)

For the Dialectic stage (when your children are around 8-16 years of age), you may want to check out a similar book called “Yoshiko and the Foreigner.” It explores many of the same themes, though richer and at a more mature level than “How My Parents Learned To Eat.”

The story begins with a Japanese girl, Yoshiko, who is riding home on a train one day. An American wearing a military uniform – a gaijin – is having trouble with the Japanese language, and all the other passengers are laughing at him.

Fortunately, Yoshiko can speak perfect English! And she also wants to help this American, who (unfortunately) is breaking all the rules of Japanese etiquette by addressing her and asking for directions to the Emperor’s palace.

Fortunately for the American, though, Yoshiko gently overlooks this breach of decorum by giving him directions … and thus begins a beautiful friendship.

yoshiko and the foreigner book review

Some themes and topics to discuss with your children:

  • Cultural clashes. Yoshiko is hesitant to discuss her new friend with her family, partly because she knows they would not approve of her interacting with a foreigner. What are some things the American does to help gain Yoshiko and her family’s trust?
  • Dispelling stereotypes. Yoshiko’s father has many negative stereotypes of Americans, which come to mind when he hears that the American wants to marry Yoshiko. For example: “Americans are fast people. They are complicated; they think highly of their own advancement.” Or, “America is full of proud people. This American could not understand what it means to honor our family and our people.” Or, “This American, he will not understand the ways of our people. Americans only laugh and scoff at our customs.” Gently and respectfully, Yoshiko dispels these stereotypes by pointing to specific examples when her American friend has shown respect, honor and consideration to her family’s customs and values. How should we identify and respond to stereotypes when we hear them? What are some ways that we try to avoid a judgmental attitude toward people we’ve never met?
  • An openness to learning new things. I love the next-to-last page in the book, where Yoshiko’s mother explains that Yoshiko’s father has written to the American (and we know this means he has tacitly blessed their upcoming marriage). Her mother says, “Since you were a little girl, you have wanted to see other countries, to go far, far away. Now you will. … Perhaps one day you will come back, and this time you will bring your American with you.” Turn the page over, and you can enjoy a breathtakingly beautiful, real-life picture of their wedding! <Awww.>

I hope this review gives you some fresh insights and inspiration in how to incorporate sex education with your children in a holistic, literature-focused approach. Let me know if there’s a specific resource you’d like me to review next!

By Shanxi

Providing the foundation for healthy, lively & even fun (gasp!) discussions of human sexuality from a Biblical perspective. Sex education made simple. Started by homeschool families, for homeschool families.


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