“A life with love is happy. A life for love is foolish. A life of if only is unbearable.”
Hello everyone, welcome to today’s bookish video. I am going to be talking about expectations vs reality from 2 books I finished on Audible; The Woman in the White Kimono by Ana Johns and Pachinko by Min Jin Lee.
The Woman in the White Kimono is about a 17 year old Japanese girl who falls in love with an American sailor in 1957; it is based on a true story, after WW2. Japan had lost the war and the Americans were settling in so there is was a lot of tension. The Japanese society disapproved of mixed relationships and this is obviously a problem for Naoko and her American lover. I thought this book would just be about the couple’s struggles and cultural differences. However, it got deep, it got really dark and I cried a lot. Naoko has to make hard decisions and experiences heartbreak from trying to live the life she wants, learning that reality can be unkind.
I want to talk about obsession. Naoko’s naive obsession with her relationship because it was her dream and so she was even prepared to give up her family for it. However it was a catalyst for the chain reaction of devastating events. It happens, obsession can do that. “A life with love is happy. A life for love is foolish. A life of if only is unbearable.” The books repeats this a few times emphasising this point.
The woman in the white kimono shared a dragon folktale, and it left huge impact on me because it literally felt it was about my life.
The folktale is about a man who said he loved dragons, frankly obsessed with them talking about dragons whenever he could and spending his time drawing pictures of dragons. This man claimed he loved dragons so much that many people began to talk and the news spread far about this person who idolised dragons like no other. The news even reached a green dragon and being pleased to know that it was thought of so affectionately it wanted to meet the man as it thought it would make the man happy to see a dragon in real life. So one night it rode the wind to the cave of the man excited for the encounter. When the dragon arrived the man was sleeping, so the dragon laid next to him and fell as sleep as well. However, the man woke up and was horrified to see a large beast with scales next to him, panicking he went to reach for a sword to attack the dragon because of how terrified he was.
Now how does this folktale relate to me and why did it make me uncomfortable? I realised I was exactly like this man. I am a person who likes the idea of something and when confronted with it I end up being terrified; and this could be for several reasons from me not liking the responsibility to the encounter being underwhelming and plain boring. Every one makes those expectations verses reality jokes, we are aware that things usually are not like it would seem. Yet sometimes I can obsess over something and swear this will make me happy and when I have it I feel numb or I reject it for being too hard. In that dragon story the man could have calmed down and looked at the dragon before him and seen it was harmless and only came because he wanted to make him happy. Instead the dragon probably left feeling confused and unappreciated, thinking how could you call something your dream one day and a horrible beast the next. In my life there have been times when I get something I think I wanted and I have either run away or realised I didn’t want it or it made me feel worse and full of regret. Yet it was something I desired so much, believing it will transform me into someone great.
Obsessions are dangerous, they blind your vision and make you narrow minded. Never meet your heroes they say because it would make you sad, to find out your hero is not on the podium you put them and they don’t meet your expectations. Obsession will make you look at a good thing and think that it is lacking. Obsession creates images of perfection that you compare your life to and you can never reach that standard. Obsession will make you think there is only one way to do something and you reject the natural flow of things and miss experiences.
The woman in the white kimono touches on a lot of other topics, such as a woman’s role in family, discrimination, and legacy. I recommend this book as there is so much to unpack and learn from it.
The next book that made me think about expectations vs reality is Pachinko which is also set in Japan, but the main characters are Koreans who immigrated there. The story starts in Korea, 1911 and finishes in Tokyo 1989. The book follows Sunja and her family through generations. When we are introduced to the first characters Japan had annexed Korea which lasted from 1910 to 1945. Then when we say goodbye to the characters it is after WW2 and the division of Korea; so location is not the only thing that changes in this story as even religion, education and career evolve as the characters we follow in this book are living through some of the toughest periods in time for Koreans.
The first disappointing truth Sunja confronts in this book is finding out the man she was having a sweet romance with is in fact a married; and later on finds out he is also a yakuza. Two strikes, the man came with baggage. She did try to run from it, she was like I’m not gonna be your mistress boy bye. Then she got married to a Christian man and went to Japan with him. Sunja has made a really good decision after all the mistakes and she is sincerely trying to fix things. Happy ever after starts now right?
Sadly no, the book gets more depressing and life keeps letting her down to the point were she no longer even has expectations. The book shows some challenges people who immigrate face.
Sunja is a Korean in Japan, and life for them was cruel. There is the language barrier, the religious differences and the lack of work available to foreigners; all this pressure and more on a young girl who came wanting a better a life.
The title of the book Pachinko has a lot of meaning behind it and after you finish the book it makes perfect sense. Pachinko represented the highest a Korean could achieve at that time, the only business opportunity that they could be successful in; as Japanese companies did not employ Koreans. Pachinko was something they worked hard on yet it was also looked down upon and associating a Korean with Pachinko could be a way to insult them.
There is so much history in this book and it made me think about how painful life can be when you don’t fit in. Sunja learned from her experience so for her children she wanted them to act Japanese and receive a good education so their lives would turn out well, and it would be easier for them to survive. This is something even I have done, I remember trying to alter myself to try fit in more when I started college after secondary school; I went to a school none of my old friends were and I had the desire to fit in as well as just fade into the background. I ended up leaving that college because I went there to escape because I was bored of my local school and didn’t want to stay for sixth from, but I felt even worse than I expected being at that college. And that was just because I was from South West London, trying to go to a school near North London. I couldn’t fit in, I didn’t find their jokes funny.
On that note before I go into a whole thing about how North London is weird, we have come to the end of this book-ish video. I am so happy to have experienced these books on Audible. If you are interested, sign up for a 30days trial and get one book for free. I have linked my books down below; let me know in the comments if you have read any of these or have anything else to add about some of the points I mentioned. If you enjoyed this video remember to like and subscribe so I know what to keep posting. Thank you so much for watching. Byeeeee