Gail Lee Bernstein’s book Haruko’s World is very artful story that depicts real events. In 1974, Bernstein went to Japan to study the activities of women in the farm and how they reacted to change and new technology. Bernstein lived with Haruko Utsunomiya’s family and was writing Haruko’s story. The book shows the women’s lives, relationships between men and women, friendships, and bonds between generations. The book describes how women work to support the village and to help it deal with the changes. The book also shows flexibility and importance of a life-history approach. By showing the lives of different individuals, the reader learns about farm women in Japan and their roles not only as social and economic characters, but also as cultural creativity and cultural patterns.
The setting in the book begins in 1974 in a small farming community in Japan. In the beginning of the book, Bernstein is getting acquainted with the area and the family she is about to live with for the next few years. Bernstein describes the house and its surroundings in details. The area where the family lives is not far from poverty stricken with small hut-like houses situated very close to each other.
At first, Haruko is worried that she would not be able to accommodate her guest with necessary care such as, preparing breakfast, repairing and ironing clothes, as well as cleaning her room. One of Haruko’s very big concerns was the clothing and appearance. She was obsessed to impress other women with her looks and not her husband. Being in a new environment, Bernstein has to fast learn all the common forms of etiquette in the Japanese culture. One of the main ways to learn the etiquette and culture is by watching people and asking Haruko all the questions. Bernstein describes Haruko as a control freak, who wants to be in charge of almost everything that is going on in her household. This was a sign of different times. Then women’s responsibilities and location were not limited to only daily household chores. A woman would be responsible for various appointments for her family and she would be in charge of distributing work.
Then Bernstein begins describes the relationship between Haruko and her husband, Sho-ichi. They met in 1949 in the house of her uncle, while helping with the rice harvest. Their relationship is unique. Bernstein found out that Sho-ichi could be sometimes physically abusive. This was surprising because he was an easy going and relaxed person, while Haruko could get nervous easily.
In the book, Bernstein writes about other women too, those, whom she interviewed. Combined stories of different women help to see and learn more about Japanese culture.
Gail Lee Bernstein’s book Haruko’s World is very artful story that depicts real events. In 1974, Bernstein went to Japan to study the activities of women in the farm and how they reacted to change and new technology. Bernstein lived with Haruko Utsunomiya’s family and was writing Haruko’s story.