A Mother’s Nature: Polished Personal

This piece is an honest attempt at a CPU (Critical, Personal, Universal) personal response to an excerpt from David Guterson’s Snow Falling On Cedars. The excerpt is set in an American relocation camp in 1941 just shortly after the Japanese bombings of Pearl Harbour, where Fujiko Imada (the mother) and Hatsue (the daughter) are brought to a crossroads after Fujiko gains knowledge of her daughter’s romantic endeavours with a Caucasian boy named Ishmael Chambers. Being that the family is of Japanese heritage, Fujiko perceives this as a threat, and thereby takes upon the responsibility of dealing with the matter herself.

A Mother’s Nature

Discuss the idea(s) developed by the text creator in your chosen text about the ways in which individuals take responsibility for themselves or others. (June 2010)

As a daughter, I wish I could say I understood the weight of responsibility that comes with being a mother, but I can’t. I can’t because I have never been one. I have not birthed my own child, nor grown to love and protect them with all my heart. I have also never had to learn to let go, and let my own son or daughter be free to make their own choices, and trust that my work to uphold my responsibilities as a mother will still protect my children even after letting go. I have never experienced that blessing nor that burden. My mother and I have been close for as long as I can remember, but I do recall a time before my senior years of high school that caused a divide between us. Religion and culture have always been a touchy subject for me and my family. My mother, being westernized in the sense that she too was born in Canada, has always held a soft spot in her heart for her Pakistani Muslim lineage, whereas I – a mixed child, born into a progressive modern day Canadian society, do not hold such roots so close to my heart. My mom and I are so alike and we both care for each other so much, so perhaps it was due to that very reason that we clashed. In a way, you could consider me like Hatsue, and my mother as Fujiko; two women who obviously love each other, but are torn due to differences of responsibility. After reading David Guterson’s excerpt from Snow Falling On Cedars, seeing the similarities between Fujiko and Hatsue, and my mother and I sparked a certain sense of understanding in me. It was comforting to know that the relationship I had with my mother was not so uncommon, but also, it was interesting to understand that individuals, particularly parents, may take responsibility by imposing their own beliefs onto others whom they care for, as a way of protecting them from societal struggles. This was an evident truth that I noticed within the actions of both my mother and Fujiko as well as a way to protect their children from a life of difficulties with their beliefs.

Artist Kitagawa Utamaro I

In Guterson’s excerpt, when Fujiko finds out about Hatsue’s romantic relationship with Ishmael, she feels as though she had unfulfilled her responsibilities as a mother. Being that this took place right after the Japanese bombings of Pearl Harbour, those of Japanese descent in America were persecuted and sent to concentration camps (as the Imada family was) often by the white man, and so the need to remain close and true to their roots was imperative in order to keep members of the community safe. As a parent, readers can empathize with her mentality as her natural inclination as a parent was to protect and take responsibility for her child was heightened during times of turmoil. Fujiko clearly implements Japanese teachings into her daughter’s life, as demonstrated by her casual use of the Japanese word hajukin (meaning white) as she describes Ishmael. The way Ishmael is perceived by Fujiko is by this Japanese word – by the colour of his skin, which she as a mother perceived as just as much as a threat to her daughter as the current situation. There is also a clear sense of traditional Japanese values that are set in place for the family as Fujiko writes to the Chambers family, both as a way to uphold their family’s honour, but also to take responsibility for Hatsue’s actions. After raising Hatsue into a young woman with a strong Japanese influence, she is disappointed to see her daughter lacking responsibility for herself within her choice to pursue such a romantic relationship. In order to reconcile their relationship, Fujiko tries to impose her ideals further on to her daughter in order to protect her from pain, and therefore dismisses her daughter’s right to take responsibility for herself. She addressed the fact that Hatsue and Ishmael, at age 18, were “only children”, and claimed she knew that “children were foolish”, thereby dismissing Hatsue’s right to her own decisions because of her age. This perception of Hatsue as being young and incapable of her own decisions that Fujiko presents to herself may be interpreted as a means for her to seemingly preserve the youth of her daughter.  By justifying her act of ending Hatsue’s relationship, she attempts to protect her daughter from pains of heartbreak and discrimination that existed against the Japanese people.

Artist Imad Abu Shtayyah

Now, while I can’t exactly compare myself to the Imada family directly, I can relate with the situation at hand, which made the piece so compelling to me. My mother and I faced a similar divide during a time where I wanted to explore myself. High school is a place for change and growth and in my first years, that was exactly what I was doing. At the time I had come to the hasty conclusion that I no longer wanted to be a Muslim. This can be compared to Hatsue’s decision to pursue a relationship with Ishmael Chambers. Much like how Hatsue kept the relationship a secret for several years, this was an idea that I sat on for many years as well, always humming and hawing at the idea of being something else. It wasn’t necessarily one thing that sparked that idea within me, but constant mentioning of Muslim terrorists in the media, combined with my dilute understanding of the faith made me feel dissociated and uncomfortable with my own religion. Due to the fact that I was a mixed child, I had much exposure to the Catholic Church (due to my Latin roots) and thought maybe that was the path for me. You can imagine my mother’s grief after hearing this news when she had spent her entire life conditioning me with her own beliefs of Islam. She was hurt and obviously disappointed with me, just like Fujiko was with Hatsue’s decision. After that came countless arguments, my mother taking away my electronics and giving me several lectures about staying true to my faith. This can be compared to how Fujiko took it upon herself to receive all of the Imada family mail and to write the letters to the Chambers family herself. I was so mad at her, and I couldn’t understand why she felt the need to be so mad about a decision that was my own. What I failed to recognize however was that my mother felt that she had failed to uphold her responsibility as a mother, just as Fujiko Imada did, and so she combatted that by imposing her beliefs further on to me. She was trying to protect me from the stigmas that existed against the Muslim religion, and yet all I could seem to notice was how she was treating me like a child. I remember her telling me how “I was only 14 at the time” and how “as a child I didn’t know what I wanted”, which was a similar justification to Fujiko’s when explaining how she and Ishmael were not thinking straight at 18.

Next came religious lessons with the grandfather for an entire summer, and as the days past I felt myself changing in a way. I noticed my mother’s desperate need to stress the importance of Islam in my life, and though I didn’t fall head over heels for the religion, I saw my mother more clearly. As I learned, our relationship grew closer in the sense that by taking responsibility for me and my learning, she was able to relax more, and the lessons stopped. She told me that now that I knew the history, it was time for me to learn to embrace Islam myself. I admire my mother so much, and only then did I realize how tiring motherhood must be. It was only after seeing her take a step back from juggling all the responsibilities of being a mother that I saw how much of our own responsibilities she took up in order to keep us safe and happy. We never talked about differences of religion much after that, like how Fujiko gave Hatsue permission to write her own letter instead of the one she had written. That small bit of responsibility that my mother gave me, as well as Fujiko to Hatsue, must have been so hard to give up. After all, a mother’s main duty is to protect their children, and to see their child make a decision that they perceive to be wrong must not only be disheartening, but also frightening.

Artist Unkown

I realize now that my mother tried to save our relationship by teaching me about my faith, not harm it. After all, she was looking to protect me from the racist slurs and stigmas that revolved around my culture that obviously made me feel uncomfortable and uneasy in my own skin. This was a realization I noticed in Fujiko’s character as well as she was trying to help her daughter, not harm her, despite her restrictions. Her apprehensions towards Ishmael Chambers were not due to the fact that Hatsue claimed to be in love, but because of the dangers it could have brought her in during the times. Just like there is a stigma against Muslims now, there was one that existed against the Japanese post World War Two, and Fujiko was trying to uphold her responsibility as a mother best by preserving her daughter’s Japanese identity. My mother too wanted to give me a sense of identity (as I claimed to have never had one before because of my mixed heritage), and also wanted to make sure I knew the importance of my faith. She made it her responsibility to make sure I knew how to not get it confused with harsh sayings on the news or in the media, and helped me combat an insecurity that I held that was hurting me. It is too often that you hear of Muslims being called terrorists or extremist, and so my mother tried everything in her power to reverse that mentality for me and teach me in order to protect me from the dangers of my misconceptions. The same can be said for Fujiko, and after seeing Hatsue’s realization at the end of the excerpt, it is clear to the readers that she too comes to a similar conclusion as she takes it upon herself to end the relationship without her mother’s push.

As a parent, particularly as a mother, the responsibility of raising a child is pressing, and I truly envy the strength mothers around the world who to do the job well. One of the hardest things, I can only assume, would be to take a step back from parental responsibility and watching your children make decisions for themselves. It is inevitable fate that that time must come in every relationship, but the easing to that point may be difficult. Mother’s want to do everything in their power to protect their children, whether it be from bullies to the racism in the media, to even just plain insecurities. More often than not, mothers will turn to tactics such as restrictions or smothering of beliefs on their children in order to do so, with the hopes that these lessons will stick with their children and follow them on their journey to claiming their own responsibility. In both my own personal life, as well as in David Guterson’s excerpt from Snow Falling On Cedars, I have come to understand that the responsibility of mother’s is both hard to handle, as well as hard to give up. In both cases, both mothers were faced with situations in which their children were faced with possible hardship, and so they took it upon themselves to take up the responsibility of teaching their beliefs to their children in order to preserve their innocence and protect them.

Featured Image: Mother’s Nature by Wrightsonarts

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10 thoughts on “A Mother’s Nature: Polished Personal

  1. Dear Yas,

    I absolutely enjoyed this piece! As an immigrant to Canada, I understand the importance of maintaining cultural traditions, but also of forging one’s own path in life. Your blog post truly reinforced the universality of inner conflicts such as this, and though I am not a child of mixed descent (at least not directly), I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to reconcile two opposing cultures or religions, especially since both play such an important role in terms of heritage and identity.

    For improvements, there was nothing detrimental, whatsoever, in the ideas that you explored. However, there were some very minor details that, while not inherently serious, can quickly be fixed. Some sentences had several typos, like in “natural  inclination as as parent,” “[I]t wasn’t necessarily one thing,” “I was as mixed child,” “latin roots [Latin should be capitalized],” “I knew how to not to get it confused,” and “the strength [of] mothers around the world.” Also, when talking about the plurality of the word “mother,” no apostrophe is necessary before the “s.” Aside from these, there is nothing that stood out as serious. In fact, it did not get in the way of my enjoyment of your piece!

    To those of us who can never become mothers, your piece gives important insight into the sacrifices they must face every day, especially for their children. The comparison between your life and David Guterson’s novel compelled me and it allowed me to think about its themes in the context of my own life. Personally, as the son of immigrant parents (whom I love with all my heart), there are some things that my parents hold onto that I cannot accept in light of (some) progressive “Canadian” values. While I still hold onto many of their traditional values and their beliefs (especially in regards to religion), there have certainly been some points of disagreement that have caused minor conflicts between our points of view. Thanks to your piece, I can now sense some of the pain they must have had to undergo when they think they’ve failed to pass down certain principles that were important to them while growing up. This really makes me think about a parent’s difficulty in raising a child while allowing them to take responsibility for themselves. Your insight into this prompt really helped me realize this and for that, I thank you!

    Once again, I want to thank you for writing such a simple, yet powerful, piece. This especially touched me due to the importance of tradition in my family, as well as the personal struggle for independence, and it gave me comfort to realize the universality of such issues. As always, your masterful use of language conveyed these ideas beautifully and effectively, especially in the context of the novel. In fact, thanks to you, I may just have to read “Snow Falling on Cedars” in order to truly get the universality of its words, as well as the scope of the complexity in your thoughts!

    Ever yours,

    1. Dearest Jieo,

      Thank you so much for your comment ! It means so much to me that this piece affected you. It’s nice to know there are so many students in the class that can relate to the whole parent to child immigrant struggle. Thank you so much for our note about GUMPS – I feel as though when I’m editing my brain shuts off! I’ve went through and edited the post right now so thank you for that reminder. I am so humbled by your comment, and I urge you to possibly try a CPU style as well if you enjoy this! I never did because I thought they were daunting but it was the best choice I’ve ever made in terms of personal response. Shoot your shot!

      Thank you again for you kind words.

      With love,

  2. Dearest Yasmeen,
    Thank you for such an honest post; being able to understand you and your outlook better is an opportunity I am so grateful for. Your ability to discuss your relationship with your mother, and the related stresses, was inspiring as I felt like I could relate to the just about all the difficulties you brought up. You have a very sophisticated understanding of yourself and how you feel which translated beautifully into text. Further, your voice made Personal feel more personal (I know I’m probably wording that incorrectly but what I’m trying to get at is your writing didn’t feel distant) which is something I greatly admire in you. Your story of conflict between your Latin and Pakistani roots allowed me to learn about an aspect of life and existence that I have no personal experience with which, once again, gave me an opportunity to learn more about you and your outlook on life.

    The struggle for responsibility for one’s life, I feel, is such a relevant topic (especially during adolescence) and you were able to discuss it without making either perspective seem superior. This allowed for a level of objectivity that made your blog feel like a discussion with a wiser friend. I don’t even know what to say, I loved this. You are an incredible writer & thinker – both of these traits were able to shine through in this blog. Great work!

    As far as edits go I would only recommend a quick sweep through for GUMPS. I loved everything about this and seeing as it is about your life I don’t know that I could objectively suggest anything that would improve your work.

    Great work again and thank you for sharing such a beautiful part of your self with the rest of us.

    Much love,

    P.S. I loved the artwork you used, great touch.

    1. Dearest Ibukun,

      May I just say how I humbled I am for you to say that you think I have a sophisticated understanding of myself. That means more than you’ll ever know, thank you. I am glad to hear that my personal reflection of myself allowed you to learn more about yourself, because I know that you are girl who is all about that kind of thing so to have me contribute to that? Girl WOW THANK YOU. Lastly, I just want you to know that for the last 4 or so blogs I’ve posted I’ve literally thought about you when choosing my artwork every time – no joke.

      Love you!


  3. Dearest Yasee,

    I am absolutely blown away by your piece. Just… Wow. Personally, I am terrified of CPU’s because I’m so scared to screw them up and reading this has honestly inspired me. The way you portrayed your ideas was so clear and concise- a factor of writing that I struggle with- and I am so humbled by your skills. Thank you for sticking with this class because you deserve to be here 100%, and I am so sad to see you go. Furthermore, I commend you for writing such a personal and capturing piece. Your transitions from perspective to perspective are excellent and I never felt the need to reread anything.

    In regards of improvement, I don’t see anything other than what Jieo mentioned. I was instantly hooked by your first line and I loved the simplicity yet weight of what you were saying. I really relate to feeling spilt in half. I’m also an immigrant and it took me 10 years to feel comfortable and proud of my Russian heritage. I was often scared to tell people I’m Russian due to fears of being called a spy or “communist”- which became apart of my vocabulary at a very young age. I was constantly faced with Soviet Union jokes and it got to a point where I just wanted to be called “Liz” instead of Liza or Elizaveta. Thankfully, my mother never stopped maintaining a sense of culture within our household. So thank you for showing me and others that we’re not alone.

    P.S. Please teach me how you plan and organize your thoughts for personals because my mind is a constant whirlpool of thoughts and ideas and I can never stick to one idea lol.

    Love this piece and love you.



    1. Dearest Liza,

      Don’t be scared of them! I was too don’t worry, but what I have found with them is that despite their simplicity, they are the most meaningful things I’ve ever written so like I said to Jieo I sincerely suggest you give them a try. On that note though, thank you for commenting on the simplicity of my writing! I feel like I’ve heard that from a lot of people and I love that my simple writing creates a voice that is accessible to you as a reader. I really love you Liz and in a lot of ways I find that you are a lot like myself. I look up to you as a writer and a thinker in the class (even though you’re still a baby LOL) and I feel truly honoured to have had my writing affect you in such a way. Thank you so much! Also in terms of the improvements Jieo gave, I went through and fixed all of them so don’t worry. Love you!


  4. Dearest Yas,

    This blog was incredibly thought provoking for me, for the ideas presented are ideas that are prevalent in my everyday life: conflict of ideals, motherhood vs childhood, and ones own culture. Through these themes you have definitely hooked me, and others to your blog. Furthermore, you were able to talk about your own experiences and still connect to the audience/readers, that’s incredible.

    I liked how you included a snippet at the very beginning to provide context to your piece – that really allowed more depth and understanding! Furthermore, I think your honest attempt at a CPU (Critical, Personal, Universal) REALLY works. The structure you chose truly supports and adds quality to the information you’re trying to convey. By having a more Analytical/Critical section at the beginning, gives the reader details to the novel you’ve chosen, it offers insight to each individual character and the novel as a whole. However, I’d just say that at this part to be careful of not inserting too much “say” and like a critical, have the “mean” and “matter” out weight the “say”. Next, by having a Personal section allows the reader to have even MORE insight, by showing such a raw part of your life and talking about the delicacies of a daughter-mother relationship strengthens your argument. Finally, when you introduced the Universal section, I thought that it was a marvelous ending to this piece for it really talked about the novel, your personal experiences, and the human condition as a overall subject.

    Furthermore, through these paragraphs I adore how you ALWAYS made sure to incorporate the characters from the novel “Snow Falling on Cedars” in the entire piece, there was hardly any instances where I forgot which prompt or novel you were writing about. For instance, in your personal paragraph, you said “We never talked about differences of religion much after that…” and immediately connected it’s relevance to the characters by explaining, “…like how Fujiko gave Hatsue permission to write her own letter instead of the one she had written.” That’s excellently done!

    There isn’t much that I can offer for improvement that differs from what everyone else above has said; just simply look through the GUMPs!

    Although I can’t relate in the aspect of faith, the over protectiveness instinct of my mother is much like your experience with your mom. Relating to your final paragraph; I can understand that over protectiveness comes from a place of love but ironically, it has made me more distant towards her. This relationship I have with my mother also makes me ask myself a crucial question as to whether I want to be a mother when I’m older and continue to justify my actions due to a want to preserve my child’s innocence. I’m just rambling at this point, but thank you for sharing this beautiful piece for, as you can see, has really sparked conversation.

    Last thing and then I’ll be done, I promise. I just wanted to end off by saying how humbling it is to have been able to learn from you as an individual and how sad it is to see you go next year. You are such a hard worker with such delightful humor, thanks for sharing your wisdom with all of us!!!


    1. Dearest Judy,

      Thank you so much for the comment! I’m glad to hear that this affected you and allowed you to reflect on your relationships with your parents – that was the point!

      Thank you SO much for your comment about the say vs. the mean and the matter, that is truly so helpful for me in my writing because it reminds me to really think of the question “so what” so thank you!

      Lastly, let me say how humbled I am to have had been your family lead this year. You three in our group inspire me more than I could ever inspire you and I am confident that is 12s’ are leaving the class in great hands. Thank you so much for saying that you liked learning from me. It means more than you know.

      I adore you.


  5. Dear Yasee,

    I miss having you in my family group! This was such a beautiful piece; it is evident how much effort and thought that you put into it. I personally like writing CPU’s because of the lack of redundancy and clear relation to the text/prompt that it can give – you nailed these two aspects. I really loved reading your personal connection to the text, it was so clearly related, yet didn’t feel like it was a forced connection. As I said before, you clearly thought about it (one of the things that I admire most about you is the effort you put into everything). I also liked reading someone else’s CPU, as I usually write them, but have nothing to compare/contrast it to – it was interesting to see the differences in the way that we prefer to write them.

    In terms of improvement, there were a few GUMPs, but I honestly would not change anything else. Your writing has such a personal feel and voice to it that changing anything, I feel, would result in the loss of your voice.

    Thank you for posting this.



    1. Dearest Shyla,

      AHH I MISS YOU. THANK YOU FOR READING THIS! I Really though, you have grown so much since last year and every time I hear you speak you just vomit so much wisdom. I am so proud of you Shyla. I am humbled to know that you thought this piece was effective, thank you! Also, let me just say that there is always a connection there, it sometimes just takes time to dig down deep and find up. Keep writing girl, I love you and you are going to KILL AP 30!

      With love,

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