Speak, Okinawa | Granta

  • Published: 01/04/2021
  • ISBN: 9781783785971
  • Granta Books
  • 304 pages

Speak, Okinawa

Elizabeth Miki Brina

Here’s a story. On the U.S.-occupied island of Okinawa, an American soldier falls in love with a beautiful Japanese woman. He saves her from a life of grinding poverty. They settle in the States, to live out the suburban American Dream with their child.

Here’s another version. The U.S. military has occupied Okinawa since World War Two, after slaughtering a third of the island’s population; the beautiful Japanese woman lives in poverty and marries the soldier as a way to escape.

Here’s a third version. A little girl grows up with a mother who can’t pronounce her name. She meets blood relatives with whom she cannot communicate. She clings to a sense of whiteness that white peers will not let her claim. She is born as the convergence of these conflicting stories and as she grows up she must reclaim her own narrative.

Speak, Okinawa is Elizabeth Miki Brina’s courageous and heart-breaking testament to the struggle for belonging. It is a story about the immigrant experience; it is a story about how it feels to grow up biracial; it is a story about the island of Okinawa, from its first inhabitants to its colonisation by Japan and the United States. But above all, it is a story about reckoning with your history, and the links that tie you to your heritage and give you a sense of home within yourself.

I was completely transported by this memoir. At once a reckoning with cultural and personal identity, a revealing journey into one family's experience, and an important examination of a beloved, too-often overlooked island and its people, SPEAK, OKINAWA is a phenomenal piece of work. I can't wait for this moving story to be shared with the world

Sarah Bird, author of, Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen

In America, we rarely inherit language for grappling with the fraught legacies of family and identity, memory and erasure, empire and occupation. But in Speak, Okinawa, Elizabeth Miki Brina bravely charts a path toward self-recognition and reconciliation, with prose so powerful and pristine it often left me hovering at the edge of tears. This is a bracing, luminous debut that will long be remembered, and long turned to for inspiration

Francisco Cantú, author of, The Line Becomes a River

Speak, Okinawa is the rarest of books: as expansive as a history, propulsive as a novel, and intimate as a confession. It reads like a great consciousness springing to life. This book is more than an eye-popping debut, more than the introduction of a hugely talented writer. It is a time machine, a love letter, a revelation, a triumph. We are lucky to have it

M.O. Walsh

The Author

Elizabeth Miki Brina received her MFA in creative writing from the University of New Orleans. She is the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Bread Loaf Scholarship and a New York Summer Writers Institute Scholarship. She currently lives and teaches in New Orleans.

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