Cover image for Why she left us : a novel
Why she left us : a novel
Rizzuto, Rahna R.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollins, [1999]

Physical Description:
viii, 295 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


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After giving birth to a child out of wedlock on the eve of World War II, Emi Okada flees to the U.S. where she endures internment in the Colorado desert and then embarks on a lifetime of unraveling the family secrets that have shaped her troubled existence.

Author Notes

Rahna Reiko Rizzuto was born and raised in Hawaii and has a degree in astrophysics from Columbia College. She lives in Brooklyn.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

In a nonlinear narrative spanning the 1920s to the 1990s, Rizzuto's moving first novel explores four members of the Okada family, alternately telling their stories. In the process the author reveals their attempts to understand the past. Emi, the central character, does not tell her own story. She is seen through the eyes of her two illegitimate children, her brother, and her mother. Yet it is Emi's choices to abandon her son yet keep her daughter that set in motion other decisions that would leave the Okada family scarred and divided. Rizzuto shows how the normal push and pull of family relationships is greatly exacerbated by issues of assimilation and culture clash, as first-and second-generation Japanese Americans grow up torn between rebelling against and honoring the rituals and values of their Japanese-born parents and grandparents. At the same time, Rizzuto leaves us with the comforting thought that although the past can never be erased, through love and forgiveness it can lose its painful hold on the present. --Nancy Pearl

Library Journal Review

A very young unmarried Emi Okada gives birth twice during World War II. Her son, whom she gives away, is retrieved by Kaori, Emi's mother. Emi's daughter, Mariko (who is raised by Emi and, when Emi marries, George Hamada), barely remembers her brother, who is left behind yet again when Emi and George depart to make a life of their own. In the midst of this genealogical horror, this fractured family, which includes Kaori's brutal husband, Mistuo, her most obedient son, Jack, and her raging son, Will, is swept up in one of the most disgraceful chapters in American history when they are relocated to the Santa Anita (CA) racetrack, which has been converted into an internment camp for Japanese American citizens. The conspiracies of silence choking this family wreak havoc nearly beyond measure. Elements of tragedyÄan abortion, a prison term, a war casualtyÄgrab the reader. One keeps hoping that this powerful indictment of intentioned deceit, dictated by tradition and twisted loyalties, will somehow reveal just a glimmer of redemption at the end. A remarkable first novel; highly recommended.ÄBeth E. Andersen, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. vii
1 Hold Your Breath, 1946p. 1
2 Family Numbers, 1990p. 17
3 Pearl Harbor, 1941p. 27
4 So Strange, This Rememberingp. 40
5 Perfect Daughter, 1990p. 50
6 How She Left Usp. 60
7 Runaway, 1950p. 70
8 Soldier in Waiting, 1943p. 83
9 The Day That Never Was, 1950p. 98
10 What He Is, 1956p. 109
11 Bringing Him Homep. 123
12 Purple Hearts, 1944p. 135
13 The Woman He Sees, 1968p. 144
14 The Best Thing That Ever Happenedp. 157
15 Welcome Home, 1945p. 169
16 Talia, 1967p. 183
17 Horse Racing, 1990p. 198
18 Bastard, 1942p. 209
19 First Harvestp. 220
20 Shikata ga nai, 1990p. 233
21 Tumble and Fall, 1990p. 243
22 Clues, 1990p. 255
23 Reunion, 1990p. 272
24 Birth Dayp. 286