Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say

By Maureen Tai, 5 November 2017

IMG_5474“The funny thing is, the moment I am in one country, I am homesick for the other.” 
– Allen Say

Having lived as an immigrant almost all of my adult life, those words sum up my every day.

There are moments, some times more intense than others, when I long for the birdsong in my childhood hometown.  There are nights when I dream vividly of the wild, winding bicycle trails of my college days. It is always there, this shadow of other places where I have lived and learned, loved and lost.

In Grandfather’s Journey, an un-named Japanese man travels to pre-WW2 America and falls in love with his new country’s wide open spaces. Grandfather makes one return trip to Japan to take a bride, but then returns to the New World until his heart can bear it no longer. Grandfather, Grandmother and their adult daughter head to Japan and adapt to life at “home.”  But despite the delights of his homeland, Grandfather has lingering pangs of nostalgia for America, and dreams of returning. But that dream is shattered by the Second World War, depicted in one powerful picture of a group of Japanese toddlers, forlorn in a field of rubble and dirt. Grandfather’s longing is passed to his grandson – the narrator – who ultimately attains what Grandfather is denied.

This touching and thoughtful story of the immigrant experience is depicted in exquisitely rendered watercolours, with gentle pictures that are reminiscent of photographs in a dusty photo album.  Almost without exception, all of the faces are impassive and devoid of emotion, but yet a deep melancholy and yearning lurk behind the inscrutable eyes and the unsmiling lips. The shadow that is always there.

For ages 5 and above.

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