Dolls of Hope
As a big fan of juvenile and YA novels, I frequently find myself
learning about lesser known episodes in history. Shirley Parenteau's
Dolls of Hope introduces readers to a 1920's friendship doll exchange
between Japan and the United States that was financed in large part by
Chiyo (11) is the younger daughter in a traditional Japanese
farming family. She is very concerned about her sister's upcoming
arranged marriage to a widow. In fact in the first chapter she gets
caught sneaking into a formal dinner between her parents and sister
and her sister's intended.
It turns out that the wealthy husband-to-be has plans for Chiyo
as well as her sister. He will arrange for her to be a student at a
far away boarding school in the hope that she can "...learn proper
behavior in the school and put her hill country wildness behind her."
If her school report is favorable she will be allowed to come home for
the big wedding.
Doing so is easier said than done. The boarding school culture
is way different from that of her rural home and school. The young
woman she is told to learn to be like, Miyamoto Hoshi, turns out to be
a 1926 Japanese mean girl--perfectly behaved for the adults she must
make a good impression on, but capricious and cruel with peers.
When Parenteau was researching the Japanese Girls Day festival
she learned about the 1926 Friendship Project. A retired missionary
tried to prevent war between the two countries he loved. He organized
American children to send hundreds of "Blue-Eyed Dolls" to Japan where
they were greeted with parties and ceremonies. The Japanese children
raised enough money for master craftspeople to create 58 toddler size
dolls that arrived in America right before Christmas 1927.
I notice that in a previous book, Ship of Dolls, she has told the
narrative from an American perspective. I imagine you will be as
interested in that book as I am.
On a personal note, Orono Arts Cafe was amazing. We had a very
special treat. The Orono High School Show Choir opened for us with
their beautiful singing and precision choreography. They were a
lovely inspiration for the rest of the performers like moi. I surely
hope they will grace our humble stage whenever possible.
A great big shout out goes out to the Orono High School Show Choir and
their adult advisors, especially director Cami Carter. In my book
you're rock stars!
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod