The View from Brest Pocket Mountain ISBN: 9780578696607 Senyume Press copyright and written by Karen Hill Anton.
This is a memoir of a woman who has literally travelled the world, while moving from a teen age ‘black hippie’ in the 1960s New York City to become the mother of four children with a highly successful career, along with her equally successful ‘white hippie’ husband. After leaving New York City for stays on both the east and west coasts as well as several countries in Europe and the Middle East and birthing their first child in Denmark, they arrived in Japan with one child and one bag each. They now were “Settled down” in Japan (Permanent Resident Status) with four children, a cat, a dog a moving van’s contents of possessions a far cry from, and dreaded words to, Americans with sixties credentials including the Beatles first concert in the U.S.; Bob Dylan who was “just another folk singer with a guitar playing at Greenwich Village coffee houses; among the throng of 200,000 when Dr. Martin Luther King spoke about his dream; when Woodstock, New York was declared a nation, and more. The mere fact that they should be able to adapt to the Japanese way of life and enjoy the lasting experience in itself is almost unimaginable. As she states: “The Japanese educational system kills curiosity and utterly restricts the minds, imaginations and spirits of children.” “It is a conveyor belt of education they never leave, as the focus is not on learning, but testing, and memorizing facts and figures.” But then, when she had to face an unpleasant series of activities on a return trip to the U.S. while attempting to provide help for a family in obtaining food stamps, there was a total appreciation for many of the Japanese ‘way of life’. Again in her own words: “What a sight to see the name of the wealthiest and “greatest country on earth” attached to the dilapidated office building downtown where identification cards were issued. The windows were so dirty you couldn’t see out, the ceiling vents were taped on, the chairs we were required to sit on were filthy. Crude signs tacked all over the walls warned people of the consequences of fraud in obtaining government aid…The desperately poor Americans who crowded this room could not have been discerned from the denizens of some struggling nation where people would expect nothing at all from their governments.” In Japan she had been through the same lengthy bureaucratic procedures but always was addressed with respect offered by the prepackaged required honorific “san” attached to the name. No civil servant dare utter a name, i.e., just yelling out her first name “Karen”, without the addition of -san and to the last, not first name; e.g. Anton-san. The entire book follows her lengthy travels through many countries in a manner few would consider, but seems totally compatible with the mental set of an individual such as herself and of her husband. Their travels and accomplishments are intriguing to say the least.
Discussion: The story is redundant and repetitive in parts, but is an intriguing tale that memoir readers will truly enjoy as will any reader who likes true adventure travel tales.
5* Intriguing memoire.