How to Be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway

Trigger Warning: This novel and review discuss the following: Japanese culture & religion, war, death.

Goodreads Rating: 3 Stars


One of my favorite things about reading is the ability to gain knowledge and understanding of different customs and cultures that I have little experience in. When I found this copy on my local Friends of the Library shelf, I thought it would give me an interesting view of  how Japanese women experience America- and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

This quick read was about a woman named Shoko, who was a rather independent young lady living in Japan. She had dreams to see the world, expand her horizons, fall in love. Then, she falls in love with a man from Japan, and knows she would have to give up her dreams to be with him, living a traditional life- so she decides to find a husband that would take her out of Japan. Her parents help her decide who to marry among her suitors, and they choose Charlie, an American GI. This upsets her brother, because he hates the Americans and what they did to Japan in 1945. Even though it pains her to go against her brother’s wishes, and even though she loves another man, she marries Charlie and moves to America.

They move up and down the west coast, and it takes time for Shoko to adjust, but with tips from How to Be an American Housewife, a gifted book from Charlie, Shoko raises two children, a son and daughter.

Shoko, now with grown children and grandchildren, reflects on her life and the secrets she’s kept since her move to America. She’s facing a serious illness and surgery, and decides that her daughter Suiko must be the one to help her reconnect with her brother, before it’s too late. Suiko and her daughter head to Japan, learning more about their culture and family than they expected.

Overall, Dilloway’s novel is entertaining with a streamlined plot and a good twist at the end. I enjoyed when she went into detail about surrounding location and what advice Japanese women had for those who wanted to assimilate with American expectations. It was a pleasant, light, quick read.

Published: August 2, 2011

Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group

TL/DR: How to Be an America Housewife is a novel about family, relationships, and Japanese culture.

Read it? Yes- it’s a quick and lighthearted read.

Recommend it? Yes, for specific audiences.

Buy it? This is an older novel, so I would borrow a copy instead.

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Categories: Book Review, Culturally Diverse, Family Drama, Fiction, Historical

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