Analyzing the Text
Her Asian identity (what her face looks like).
The third paragraph uses alien in the sense of different and unfamiliar, “We have indeed been seen as other and alien” (24-5). The fourth paragraph uses it in the sense of legal alienness, “aliens, ineligible for citizenship” (34-5). This contributes to the power of Noda’s essay as it reinforces the confusion of identity as even the terms used against her have different meanings.
It summarizes her argument by placing the identity of the community and her past above her own desires for individual identity. It recalls the inside face (20), or the “grounding in community and a connection with culture and history” (16-17).
The scene with her uncle shows that Noda understands that the California Japanese are not “victims” (83) or “passive” (92), but rather that they pick and choose their battles. She is not devastated by her uncle’s anger because his anger makes him active and vocal, the opposite of what frightens her (89).
It is the most difficult part because it meant accepting her connection to her mother (171). In her mother Noda saw “all that I feared most in myself” (172-3). This goes back to the beginning of the story which mentions Noda’s fear of silence and passivity (89).
Noda means that her mother’s ‘feminism’ is neither white not black; it is different and so takes on a different form. When Noda looks for a “model of strength” (173-4) she does not see it in her mother (at first) and instead finds examples in black and white feminist. Therefore this ties into her larger point about coming to understand her parents better, since as she grows older she sees that her mother is an example of strength (through the anecdote about the grandmother).
Her identity as a Japanese American woman includes her racially Japanese identity (the cultural aspect as shown by the folk tale (224-231)) and her identity as Japanese American (the external aspect, as shown by the emphasis on geography). She takes these ideas and consolidates them with her feminine identity.
She uses this folk song to show how her mother is the link between different identities, “the nursemaid is the intersection of heaven and earth, the intersection of the human, the natural world, the body, and the soul” (132-4). In such, in claiming these qualities for her mother, Noda connects them to herself. Through understanding her mother, Noda is able to understand herself.
Noda’s purpose for writing this is twofold. It helps her reach acceptance with her own identity as a Japanese American woman (as shown in the concluding line). The story also helps characterize the struggle of Japanese Americans and portrays the racial tensions in America (as shown in the introductory paragraph).