Purity in Circle K Cycles by Karen Tei Yamashita Essay

Purity in Circle K Cycles by Karen Tei Yamashita Essay

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What makes a Japanese person pure? Is it their lineage? Is it the fact they live in Japan? Circle K Cycles written by Karen Tei Yamashita revolves around the concept of what is pure. Yamashita uses her own personal encounters, along with stories in order to try to understand the concept of what makes an ethnicity pure, and the hybridization of ethnicities. As a writer, Yamashita tries to explore the essence of purity by using different forms of writing. Yamashita, throughout the book, refers to her own experience of migration to Japan and Brazil. When reading we are able to see different levels of racism between the two countries. In order to explore the relevance of purity between Japan and Brazil within Circle K Circles, Yamashita uses her personal encounters, short stories, form, and language.
Yamashita begins Circle K Circles with the concept of introducing the term of being “purely Japanese.” Yamashita is a Japanese American that has traced her father’s “family back fourteen generations” (Yamashita 11). By tracing both of her family’s lineage, Yamashita came to the conclusion that she was pure Japanese, “They were Meiji Japanese” (Yamashita 11), with no foreign blood. The only thing that was different was that she was a third generation American. When Karen moved back to Japan, she physically looked like a “typical American sansei from California” (Yamashita 11). As a result, it wasn’t unusual for her to be asked about her ancestry. When Yamashita relates her lineage to the questioner and justifies that her family had originated from Japan that they exclaim: “Ah, then you are a pure Japanese” (Yamashita 12)! It is here where Yamashita asks us “What could it mean to be a “pure Japanese” (Yamashita 12)?
Yamashita, aroun...


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...we are given insight to how “unpure” Dekasegi’s are treated within Japan through Miss Hamamatsu and Ze Maria. Not only does Yamashita’s use of short stories, but she also uses form to show the clash of cultures. By using form we see how different conservative Japanese juxtaposed against the animated Brazilians. However, despite the Japanese need of trying to maintain “all things Japanese” we shown that Japanese is a language that isn’t pure in itself. Yamashita plays with the idea of impure language by hybridizing Japanese with Brazilian words. In the end, we are shown both that Japans advocating of keeping Japan pure, somewhat fails.




Works Cited

"Japanese Brazilian." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 17 Mar. 2011.
.
Yamashita, Karen Tei. Circle K Cycles. Minneapolis, MN: Coffee House, 2001. Print.

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