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Publisher's Summary

A “hauntingly beautiful memoir about family and identity” (NPR) and a young woman's journey to understanding her complicated parents - her mother an Okinawan war bride, her father a Vietnam veteran - and her own, fraught cultural heritage.

Elizabeth's mother was working as a nightclub hostess on US-occupied Okinawa when she met the American soldier who would become her husband. The language barrier and power imbalance that defined their early relationship followed them to the predominantly white, upstate New York suburb where they moved to raise their only daughter. There, Elizabeth grew up with the trappings of a typical American childhood and adolescence. Yet even though she felt almost no connection to her mother's distant home, she also felt out of place among her peers. 

Decades later, Elizabeth comes to recognize the shame and self-loathing that haunt both her and her mother, and attempts a form of reconciliation, not only to come to terms with the embattled dynamics of her family but also to reckon with the injustices that reverberate throughout the history of Okinawa and its people. Clear-eyed and profoundly humane, Speak, Okinawa is a startling accomplishment - a heartfelt exploration of identity, inheritance, forgiveness, and what it means to be an American.

©2021 Elizabeth Miki Brina (P)2021 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

One of NPR's Best Books of the Year

“A hauntingly beautiful memoir about family and identity.” (NPR, Here & Now)

“Masterful...Brina’s writing is crisp, captivating, and profound. She is vulnerable, raw, and relatable, and her stories will no doubt cause readers to reflect on their relationships with their own parents. As educational as it is entertaining, Speak, Okinawa is well worth the read.” (The Associated Press) 

“A gorgeous literary memoir of inner exploration and the search for identity.” (Good Morning America)

What listeners say about Speak, Okinawa

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Excellent!!

Ernest with well researched facts. Tell the story in like a poem form, very crisp, yet complete picture. I can see them, smell them, and feel them. Made me cry several times. Should read if you love Okinawa, and daughters, mothers, and husband.....

7 people found this helpful

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True to life

As an Okinawan born child of similar background to Elizabeth Brina, I thought this was spot on. And while listening I learned so much about Okinawa and myself. Thank you to the author—what gutsy writing. I am so grateful for your bravery and work on sharing your story.

3 people found this helpful

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Honest & Relatable

I originally downloaded this book because I was raised in Okinawa, Japan. I love hearing and reading stories that bring back my memories of the beautiful island. I can relate to Elizabeth in so many ways, because my father was also an American and in the military. My mother is Turkish, and I am also an only child. Hearing the struggles of Elizabeth’s mother tore at my heartstrings, as I’m sure my own mother faced some of the same struggles and I did not appreciate her as much as I should when I was a child.

It has shown me a different perspective of Okinawa. I know that Elizabeth strongly believe that’s the military should be removed from Okinawa all together, and that makes me feel somewhat sad. I would not be who I am today if I was not raised in Okinawa. I cherish my time there, the friends that I made, the experiences I gained. None the less, the book is open and honest, and I really appreciated that in the end. ♥️

2 people found this helpful

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Exceptionally good

"Speak, Okinawa" blends a personal family story and the history of Okinawa seamlessly and poetically. The story of Okinawa is revelatory and moving. The family story is narrated by an indulged only child who resents her immigrant mother for being different and troubled and struggling in America where she is isolated from her family, culture, and language. Eventually, she grows up to realize that her father is not the only hero in the family. Delicately and respectfully told. I could have done without some of the details of her teenage life (Rated-R), but I'm glad I took the time to listen to this well-written, well thought out story, which opened up the history and culture of a different part of the world to me. The audio version is very well read.

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Excellent

As a Japanese American who lived in both Japan and America I truly appreciated this story. I lived in Okinawa for a year during my first year of college and was amazed to hear about the history of Okinawa.

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One of my favorite books of the year

Distinct and relatable. Generalizing and nuanced. Warm and familiar. A great listen and one of my favorite of the year.

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Beautifully moving

One of the top memoirs I’ve ever read. Both historical and relatable, heartwarming and heartbreaking. It was poetically written and the simplicity of language and repetition of phrases added to its potency. Looking forward to reading future books by Elizabeth Miki Brina.

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A bittersweet journey

A great ride with the author to finally understand and appreciate the uniqueness of herself, the history of her parents, and the most interesting of all, the discovery of the hard life of her mother and the history of Okinawa. Being an immigrant with multiracial kids, this story touched my heart deeply.

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I really loved it

This was a really nice listen. I liked the narrator and the book was sad, but not too sad, and poetic. I listened a few times.

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Tears, Laughter and Learning

Very touching memoir. Loved it. Loved learning about the Okinawa that is not taught. Appreciate her story and sharing her parents story. Thank you for your hard and necessary work.