Japanese War Brides
May 9, 2018 8:18 PM   Subscribe

US Air Force Col. Bruce Hollywood searched for his Japanese birth mother. He found her — and the restaurant she had named after him. Hollywood's story is told by Kathryn Tolbert, a Japanese-American reporter and filmmaker, who is telling the stories of Japanese women who married American servicemen after World War II on Instagram @kathryn.tolbert and in an oral history archive, www.warbrideproject.com.
posted by gen (18 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
 
That was a very nice read. Very happy that they were able unite .
posted by davidmsc at 10:15 PM on May 9


Awwww!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:12 PM on May 9


Bruce! Those oral histories are the best use of the internet.
posted by rhizome at 11:19 PM on May 9


Really appreciated this story. Wonder what the Adniral was able to do to help that Bruce could not do himself. Really liked his birth mom getting up to ride her bike behind him when he went running.

Thanks for the post.
posted by AugustWest at 11:36 PM on May 9 [10 favorites]


Thank you, gen. Oh, thank you for that bit of goodness.
posted by eggkeeper at 1:40 AM on May 10


What a great story. About as feel-good as they come. I love that he ran into someone who had a bit more rank than he did, a guy who can make flags run up and down poles just by barking at the right ppl.

I'm just bummed that his mother died so damn young. Plus she had a heart attack, could be the same one her son had, I wonder if she checked her heart health out after finding out about her sons heart attack.
posted by dancestoblue at 3:01 AM on May 10 [1 favorite]


I mourn that they didn't have more time together, but I'm glad they finally got to meet. What a lovely story.
posted by lesser weasel at 4:16 AM on May 10 [2 favorites]


It's interesting perspective on stories like these. To me this is just painful and sad. I think maybe part of the reason progressives don't really see adoption trauma is real or put adoption prevention into real agendas that are being worked on outside of the adoption affected communities (and that is mostly women who have lost their children at that) is because everyone likes a nice happy reunion story, finishing off all the rough edges and the trauma and pain with a little "Oh, see, it all worked out in the end".

I don't see having three years where they could barely speak together as it all working out. What an unnecessary loss that could be prevented if our world supported mothers and children to begin with. People like to pretend adoption is necessary or that there are so many of these women placing their children who just don't want them or are SO grateful someone else will take their children because they don't want to raise them themselves. This happens but over all the majority of us who lose children to adoption love them, want them, and ache for them every day after they are taken from our arms to "help" our children.... because no one would meaningfully help our children unless they can help themselves to our children.

I still have hope that can change.
posted by xarnop at 4:35 AM on May 10 [22 favorites]


The article states she was afraid of how a biracial child would be treated. There's a lot of inequity in the world, but it didn't read to me like she was without the ability to raise a child or lacked support in doing so.
Nobue’s father, a fisherman, offered to support her and the baby, but she knew it would be difficult for a mixed-race child in Japan, so she gave him up for adoption to Edward and Eleanor Hollywood, who were stationed in Japan with the U.S. Air Force.
There's a lot to unpack in this story, but it doesn't exactly read like a woman being forced to give up a child because she was unable to raise him herself. This seems like cultural racism creating a situation where raising this child was untenable, and she made a difficult choice. But it does read like a choice to me. I'm not finding a way to lay any blame for her situation at the feet of the adoptive parents.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:12 AM on May 10 [23 favorites]


*big honking dust mote in my eye*
posted by infini at 7:25 AM on May 10 [1 favorite]


There's an argument for how the adoptive parents could have kept in touch better. In 2018, you'd expect more than a photo, and the re-naming of the kid to wipe out his Japanese name would be more than a little questionable. Trans-Pacific calls were incredibly hard back then, but what about letters?

On the other hand, this was Japan in the 1960's, and given what I've heard about adoptions at that time, particularly cross-racial adoptions, and especially adoptions by white Americans in Japan -- the fact that a white couple was willing to adopt an obviously biracial baby, the adoptive mom taking an effort to meet the birth mom in person and giving her a picture, back when sharing a picture meant taking photo, getting it developed, and physically handing it over, telling her the new name/urging Bruce to visit and telling him all the info they had and offering to pay for the flight despite his general lack of interest because he was happy with his life.

I'm going to give them some credit. I'm also impressed by Nobue's father. In East Asian countries, the stigma against children born out of wedlock is ferocious even now. I can't imagine what it would have been like in Japan, almost 60 years ago, with a clearly mixed-race kid.

Which is to say: I read this story yesterday and cried, and then I cried again telling my white husband about it while we were preparing dinner for our mixed-race kid who is just about the same age Bruce looks like in that photo. Now, I'm crying again now on re-read. There's that line about how the adoptive mother came to Nobue "before they moved back to the United States", so I just started thinking about the period after Nobue had given up her baby, and the Hollywoods were still in Japan, and what it must have been like for Nobue to know that her baby was in the same country, but not have him in her arms because of the cruelty of society and history?

The world can be hard and cruel, especially for women. I'm so happy Bruce and his mother had each other for three years.
posted by joyceanmachine at 7:53 AM on May 10 [24 favorites]


Whoa! Planet Hollywood is named after a guy??!?

But seriously, that's really sweet, and yet so sad. All this because of a stupid misunderstanding.
And I'd be very interested to know just what Admiral Harris did to find her.
posted by Naberius at 9:23 AM on May 10


I'm not crying, you are!
posted by mlo at 9:30 AM on May 10 [2 favorites]


I don't see having three years where they could barely speak together as it all working out

Nothing "all works out," it's just life, where a bunch of stuff happens and then you die and most-if-not-all of it is forgotten. Was it better than it not happening? I think so.
posted by rhizome at 9:57 AM on May 10 [8 favorites]


Everything I thought I knew or felt about adoption was turned inside-out by this book.

I'm glad that Bruce's mom was able to see her boy several times before her untimely death. But I am sad that she gave him up in the first place. It completely changed the course of her life.

Also, the photo of tiny Bruce broke my heart.
posted by 41swans at 10:35 AM on May 10 [1 favorite]


"This seems like cultural racism creating a situation where raising this child was untenable, and she made a difficult choice. But it does read like a choice to me."

You just literally said she was in a situation where raising a child was untenable and yet also you believe she had a choice. The cognitive dissonance required to make you feel like this is a just and acceptable situation where people are making free choices is bizarre- and frankly painful to witness. I did not say anywhere the responsibility for helping those in need should fall only on the laps of potential adoptive parents- but yes culturally changing systemic racism is absolutely the responsibility of all of us and agreeing to help children harmed by systemic issues like racism or poverty only if you are able to exploit them for personal gain isn't really aid.
posted by xarnop at 11:06 AM on May 10 [3 favorites]


"There's a lot to unpack in this story, but it doesn't exactly read like a woman being forced to give up a child because she was unable to raise him herself. This seems like cultural racism creating a situation where raising this child was untenable, and she made a difficult choice. But it does read like a choice to me. I'm not finding a way to lay any blame for her situation at the feet of the adoptive parents."

What? Everything is a choice, if someone holds a gun to your head, it's still your choice to comply or not. I don't think there's any blame to lay at her feet or the adoptive parents, I'm not sure looking for anyone to blame is even a reasonable course of action here. The worst element of any of this are the racist cultural norms in Japan, which are everyone's responsibility.
posted by GoblinHoney at 11:19 AM on May 10 [1 favorite]


My mom met my dad on an USAF base in Japan during the US occupation, they married, had me some years later, and moved stateside. Watching the interviews on Tolbert's blog has been so very moving: seeing the faces and hearing the voices of other women who shared my mom's journey and are the age she would be had she not passed away too young gives me more insight into the struggles she wouldn't discuss.
posted by jamaro at 11:26 AM on May 11 [3 favorites]


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