Study Guide

Farewell to Manzanar Part II, Chapter 21

By Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston

Part II, Chapter 21

The Girl of My Dreams

  • Jeanne's friendship with Radine and her position as majorette are exactly how she wants her life to be.
  • Things are great between them for the next three years, and they're best friends and equals in pretty much every way… But once they go to high school, things change.
  • Radine moves on up socially, getting into high school sororities, becoming a song girl (which is cooler than being a baton twirler), and getting asked out by all the cute guys.
  • Meanwhile, Jeanne's social life tanks—everything Radine has, Jeanne doesn't.
  • To make matters worse, even being a majorette is an issue because of her Japanese identity, and the band director needs to ask permission for Jeanne to be majorette even though she's clearly the best one in school.
  • Jeanne's used to the rejection, but she's not used to Radine's success, which demoralizes her since they shared so much together.
  • Jeanne credits her attraction to Caucasian guys to spending so much time with Radine, but says that even if she did get asked out by a guy, she wouldn't say yes because she still has a Japanese face and a Japanese father who would scare off the boys.
  • Looking back, adult Jeanne rationalizes it like this: It's not like she wanted to be white or that she hated Radine—she just wanted what Radine had.
  • As high school drags on, Jeanne starts to lose interest and begins to hang out on the streets.
  • In fact, she's on the path to dropping out of high school when Papa finally sobers up, gets back into farming, and moves them out of Cabrillo Homes; they move to San Jose because Papa gets a chance to lease and sharecrop a strawberry farm.
  • Since San Jose's still a small town at this point, Jeanne's Los Angeles roots gives her some major cred at her new high school—she even gets chosen to be the annual carnival queen by the student body.
  • How, you ask? By playing up her "exotic" Asian looks and wearing a sarong.
  • Oh yeah—and with the help of her classmate Leonard Rodriguez, who catches the teachers stuffing the ballot box with a white girl's name and threatens to tell the whole school about it.
  • So Jeanne finally gets to be queen.
  • Papa's furious though because being carnival queen is so not like being a good Japanese girl.
  • He wants her to be modest, to cover her legs and body at the school, and he even goes so far as to model how she shouldn't walk, which makes Jeanne laugh (he kind of looks like a baboon).
  • But Papa's serious; he doesn't want her to end up marrying a hakajin (white boy).
  • Mama's way more relaxed and understanding about what Jeanne's going through.
  • Jeanne and Papa compromise: she gets to be queen if she takes odori classes to learn how to be a traditional Japanese girl.
  • Jeanne doesn't last for more than ten odori lessons because she smiles too much, and eventually Papa gives up.
  • Mama, however, is all in—she helps Jeanne pick out her coronation dress.
  • Mama and Papa do agree on one thing, though—no skin—so Jeanne ends up walking away with a dress that covers her whole body, which she's cool with.
  • She may have won by showing off her body, but she plans on being "respectable" (42) as queen.
  • On coronation night, Lois Carson—the girl the teachers wanted to win—gives a fake compliment about Jeanne's high-necked dress.
  • Lois, as one of Jeanne's attendants, is wearing a pricey strapless dress a.k.a. what every other attendant is wearing.
  • Lois also gets all the attendants to say how much they like Chinese food. (Is she a mean girl or is she just ignorant? You decide.)
  • Because of all this stuff, Jeanne ends up feeling really uncomfortable as she walks toward her throne, doubting who she is and why she's even there.
  • She knows, for example, that afterwards there'll be a smaller, after-party at Lois's and she isn't invited to go.
  • But at this point, she doesn't know what other goal is "truer" (51) than that throne she's walking towards.

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