Study Guide

Obasan Tough-o-Meter

By Joy Kogawa

Tough-o-Meter

Tree line (6)

Obasan is a slightly difficult read for the same reason that the tilt-a-whirl is a difficult ride. You go back and forth so much it's hard to keep things straight.

The language and the subject matter are mostly easy to understand, but this novel jumps back and forth through time like a DeLorean in Back to the Future. Sometimes it's hard to know where or when we are. Are we in Vancouver in the past? Are we in Obasan's house in the present? Kogawa doesn't make it clear when time shifts occur, so it can be confusing. Add that to the weird dreamy stuff and you have a fairly complicated book on your hands.

But hey: life is complicated, and memory can be a confusing ride all by itself. And also, Shmoopers, that's what we're here for. We'll hold your hand if you get dizzy on this tilt-a-whirl.