Category Archives: Mirikitani, Janice

Janice Mirikitani: Breaking Tradition

We immediately being with the conflict, but we can tell that we will learn how they are, in fact, alike. Secretive=hidden, and we can all relate to the private lives we don’t share with our parents when teenagers – hatred of womanhood just feels like a teenager thing to say or act out against. A teenager can rebel because they haven’t been burdened with what it means to be an adult yet.

Whispers are like fungus – secrets are a disease. It evokes the image of a dark, empty room with fungus growing all over the place, on the walls, and dripping from the ceiling. We die from our secrets like a cancer. And not just secrets, but pettiness and all the shortcomings about herself (and maybe how she sees other women) and how it’s also a fungus that they can’t escape. But not all are self-inflicted: menstruation is biological and inescapable (and so even worse than the self-inflicted since nature itself is at war with her).

But this pain immediately connects to the image of hands and hands, especially women’s hands are seen as healing, but she keeps playing with the pain imagery and turns the usual gentle, healing hands of a woman into mere clamps, and tools. She is defining herself as being no better than a tool. We even get more suffocating words later with ‘compressed’, ‘smothered’, ‘confined’, and the ‘obi (sash)’ as a constricting device (tool, like the hands).

And she confined by this smothering of being a woman and her traditions. She wants to ‘break tradition’ like you would break ‘bones’ : break the guilt in our bones. But she is part of an unending generational march. We get the image of a foetus, of menstruation , thighs displayed with color which are images of failed generations, children that are not to be born.

But she is taught to be quiet, to be passive, to be confined by ceremony since that is what her mother could make sense of in her world. This is what has been passed down: ritual, but nothing of real substance, just generation after generation going through the motions. She wants the room opened, not locked and dark, and full of lies. She wants to let light in (the light of her hands, the yellow guitars like the sun) but also talk of the real horror (the barb wire – internment camps?) and the miracles and beauty of life – the music of like (guitar and shakuhachi (flute)).

And in the end, sadly, the room will be closed off to her, just as all the previous ones have been closed off before them. The secrets will prevail, the daughter will try to break tradition, but she won’t either.

Nice use of the word mirror followed by the word breaking- broken mirror at the end here.