The Magical Red Kimono


My mother's red kimono.

My mother’s red kimono.

This morning, while giving my children’s story, The Magical Red Kimono, a final read-through before submitting to a publisher, I read a blog comment from my friend, Alice White. In her comment, she mentioned the scene in The Red Kimono where Sachi teaches her black friend, Jubie, to dance in her mother’s red kimono.

When I wrote this scene, I certainly did not intend Jubie dancing in Sachi’s mama’s red kimono to be any form of cultural appropriation, though, according to the Metropolitan Fine Arts Museum’s “Kimono Wednesdays” protesters, it would be.

I wrote the scene, imagining my own mother’s red kimono and remembering my childhood in California, the afternoons when my black friends who lived across the street came over and danced with my sisters and I.

In fact, I created The Magical Red Kimono around it, because we can learn a lot from children who are not so afraid of stepping over the line of political correctness, and not so easily offended. It’s important to share our cultures with each other in a way that brings us closer. Instead, we often cling so protectively it puts distance between us.

As my friend, Koji Kanamoto commented on my blog post, Outrage Over a Red Kimono, “Racism exists in one’s soul, not in a kimono.” How can we change a soul, if we do not share?

EXCERPT from The Magical Red Kimono:

Sachi watched Jubie dance and wondered if there was something magic about the red kimono. How else could her friend—her friend who wasn’t Japanese—look as if she’d danced bon-odori a hundred times before? With each graceful step, the long, silken sleeves  of the red kimono floated like kites in the summer breeze.

It didn’t matter that Jubie’s dark skin was a different color from the Japanese people who would be at Obon. Her dance was as lovely as anybody’s Sachi had seen. Surely Mama would be proud. Still, worry lingered like green beans on her dinner plate.

Just then, she noticed the way Jubie held her tongue—half hanging out of her mouth and wiggling up and down with every step she took. Jubie always did that when she was concentrating, and Sachi couldn’t help but laugh.

Jubie stopped dancing. Hands on her hips, she glared at Sachi. “You laughing at me?” she asked. “Because if you are, just wait until I teach you the Boogie Woogie. Now that’ll be something to laugh about.”

Other links of interest:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kwoSYWIgV9Y&index=1&list=LLTRH0m_J9yJyiZ4Wfpv4aoA

http://readysetkimono.com/2015/07/10/protests-at-the-boston-museum-of-fine-arts/

http://observer.com/2015/07/mfa-boston-cancels-kimono-dress-up-after-allegations-of-racism/

This entry was posted in Current Events, Discussion, Excerpt, Family History and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Magical Red Kimono

  1. Mustang.Koji says:

    I came across this TV clip of a very young Black teenager spouting off racially charged words. It was against “White” folks. From whom did he learn that hatred? It works both sides of the “color line”, of course.

    Racism exists in the soul. No amount of laws or protests can ever correct that.

    • Jan Morrill says:

      I don’t know if links come up in my comments, Koji. But I agree wholeheartedly that racism exists in the soul. I also think that sharing our cultures with each other is the only way to eliminate the ignorance.

  2. One of my many favourite scenes in The Red Kimono 🙂 A true testament to the accepting nature of the young. Something a lot of people could do well to remember 😉 ❤

  3. Reblogged this on Alice White Author and commented:
    In this bog post, Jan Morrill detail the scene I referred to in my re-blogging of her previous post. A wonderful scene indeed 🙂

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