From BAMBOO RIDGE Issue Number 61/62, BANANAHEART & OTHER STORIES, by Marie Hara

Triggers for June:

1. so many plans had to be reconsidered
2. we did not do anything
3. you didn’t have to talk
4. we studied how to do it
5. the only problem was
6. so much going on
7. she liked her loneliness
8. trancelike

From “Bananaheart”:

          The second time it happened, she began to look closely at the neighbors when she saw them coming and going past the hedges. She had wanted to live in the area for so long, she couldn’t believe any resident, anyone living such a good life in a neatly kept property would do such a thing . . . the people in the old apartment, maybe, but not the ones in this solid neighborhood. The orderly row of mock orange grew so rapidly next to the rain forest which surrounded their green velvet yard, that she had stopped having the yardman trim it so carefully. She didn’t care whether he chose to hack at the flourishing hedge which separated their lawn from the undergrowth and the next-door people. The mock orange always filled out in no time, because it rained so much in this lush valley. She breathed in with pleasure each time she stood by the old-fashioned windows and watched the rain, which took on a refreshing quality in the soft light. No, she wouldn’t let something so dumb force them into leaving.
           Her husband, on the other hand, looked tireder and drank more, beginning each evening as soon as he entered the kitchen from the door which led up from the weathered garage. He arrived home so soon after work that she began to worry about how he managed to cut corners and race through afterwork traffic just to appear, slightly ruffled and not at all curious, day after day, although his eyes always moved directly to the front door step. For Dave, the second time the bananaheart appeared did it.
           Because the first time she alone saw it, squat and solid, on the cement flooring of the entry area, she thought nothing of it. It was purple and glossy. She had seen them before, on banana stalks, nothing unusual. The heart . . . or maybe it should be called the flower . . . Barbara pushed the dustmop across the room, over to the door where she studied it. It lay directly where one would step off the doormat onto the center of the concrete slab in the front entry. It was real. Their wooden door was screened off by an airy lath divider which gave them the required minimum of privacy.
           . . .

* * * * *

In this her first collection of short stories, Marie Hara shares both new and previously published works that explore her characters’ complex connections to the past. Spanning nearly 100 years of the experiences of Japanese women in Hawaiʻi, these stories introduce a picture bride, a plantation worker, a domestic servant, a hapa-haole girl growing up in post-war Makiki as well as these women’s successful but often troubled middle-class descendants. Hara explores how race, class, sexual politics, and the continuing influence of the colonial past shape the lives and choices of her female protagonists. These stories from the soul of immigrant Hawaiʻi, reach out and find the commonality of all people.

“Bananaheart is a heart courageously exposed—the heart of a warm, brave, truthful hapa woman. She invites you into her loneliness, her longing and tenderness and shows you a life that is deeply lived and exquisitely observed.”

—Joy Kogawa, Obasan and Itsuka


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