The conflict of a typical mother/daughter relationship exists in many cultures. This conflict for many Asian-American women was further exasperated as these women were forced to also deal with adjusting as first, second, and third generation Americans in a sometimes unwelcome society. As a child, Japanese-American Janice Mirikitani, was interned, along with her mother, at a “work relocation camp” during 1941in Rohwer, Arkansas (Americans Who Tell the Truth @ AWTTT). Despite her unfavorable origins of birth as an interned US citizen of Japanese descent, Mirikitani has gone on to become a self-proclaimed visionary, community activist, leader, poet, and editor in American society (AWTTT). The role of the Asian-American female in society has experienced varying rates of progression in relation to social reform that has taken place in the US is “Breaking Tradition” written by Mirikitani. This poem epitomizes this progression for the three generations of women in the Mirikitani family as Asian-American women. It also defines how this journey erected barriers within the familial relationships of a mother and a daughter across each generation, “Breaking tradition” is not only a poem about the evolution of a relationship between a mother and daughter through the passage of time, but also a poem about the evolution of repression and persecution that plagued Asian-American women in the US.
The poem, “Breaking Tradition”, conveys Janice Mirikitani’s concern that her daughter has made the discovery of self-loathing that many women may have experienced in 1978 as they entered into womanhood (AWTTT). According to the poet, this self-loathing is characterized by her insecurities and a longing for an identity of self other than the one defined by society. This room of insecurities, and the ant of self, which confines each woman is individualistic and changes in correlation to society. Since women from each generation may experience varying levels of oppressive societal restrictions placed on them, Mirikitani implies that this room may exist inside all women. The evolution of this oppression has to begin with a revolution against what is determined by society that begins inside each woman as a longing for self-identity. As each culture’s society goes through the transitions of social liberation, so will the affirmations of women.
Until the untimely event of this liberation, Janice Mirikitani, who was coming of age in the 1970s, seemed destined to be confined in; This room we lock ourselves in where whispers live like fungus, giggles about small breasts and cellulite, where we confine ourselves to jealousies, bedridden by menstruation. This waiting room where we feel our hands are useless, dead speechless clamps that need hospitals and forceps and kitchens and plugs and ironing boards to make them useful [sic] (Dr. Delmendo, Mirikitani).
The confines of Janice Mirikitani’s proverbial room are partially erected by her value of her self-worth and are also partially defined be her ability to have children and be a dutiful housewife. The proverbial room is also partially erected by the confines of her insecurities regarding the self-deprecating view of her body image. The coming of age of her daughter causes Janice to contemplate the different considerations of what parameters are holding back each generation of women in her family.
The journey of this social liberation for women in the Mirikitani family began with Janice’s mother whose oppression and persecution by American society was tangible, and all too real, as a first generation immigrant to the US (AWTTT). This period of time in 1941, and much of the time proceeding this period, was characterized by anti-Japanese sentiment. The mother of Janice Mirikitani was treated as a second class citizen not only because of her Japanese heritage but also because any discontent she may have felt had no...