Book Review: Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers: A Story of Exceeding Charm

Humor comes in many forms, but not all can be presented on a proper platter. It’s great to see authors that manage to incorporate humor into their work fused with many more elements for their audiences, and Lois-Ann Yamanaka, a third-generation Japanese American author, is no exception. Lois-Ann is the author of many novels, some of her most popular works being Blu’s Hanging, Heads by Harry, The Heart’s Language, and many more amazing books.

\Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers tells the coming-of-age story of Lovey Nariyoshi, a young girl in a working-class Japanese American family in Hilo, Hawaii. Lovey longs to live in a “haole” (white) neighborhood and speak English like a “perfect little American” with “straight blond hair and long Miss America legs. But instead she is “A female Huck Finn with attitude-and a family”, including a father, by turns tender and cruel, who brings home the wild meat rather than bacon; a mother who sends her to Singer sewing classes and turns her into a Toni “home permanent wave monster”; a little sister who can’t understand why Lovey “no can just be you”; a best friend who’s a boy but acts like a girl; and a dog named Spam. And when Lovey talks, “the words always come out like home”-in the rich rhythms of Hawaiian Creole English.

No matter where you grew up or when, Lovey Nariyoshi is sure to steal your heart.

This book introduces the point of view of a young girl’s treacherous journey living around criticism from everyone around her, but what will she do when the comments get to her? In the words of E. Annie Proulx, short story writer and journalist, this is truly “A rare book-exuberant, fresh-voiced, rich, crazy and stabbing, comic and as true-toned as a crystal glass tapped with a knife”.

It is truly great to see authors such as Lois-Ann Yamanaka to represent diversities in both culture and language, and a point of view that allows many people to feel identified in a book character. People can often find it hard to find characters and topics that manage to represent them, so it is refreshing to see more realistic, down to earth characters that aren’t displayed as being grouped in a hive, and that they have various traits and aspects that allow them to show the side of things that we ourselves see from time to time, whereas other characters are made to display unrealistic tropes and traits that can never truly be lived up to.

The best part of Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers is how well it manages to interpret the struggles that a young child may go through, especially when surrounded by negativity that is never quite expressed in books of this sort. Lois-Ann demonstrates struggles with family, school, language, comparison and stereotypes: many topics that young pre-teens may go through on the daily. Read along as you watch Lovey fight against these tropes, and come to the realization that you don’t need to be perfect to be an exceptional girl.

In all, I rate Lois-Ann Yamanaka’s Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers a solid 9/10; a book that easily appeals to all audiences: from the youngest of souls, to the oldest of hearts.

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