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August 14, 1994|CHARLES SOLOMON

SONGS MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME: Stories, Plays and Memoir by Wakako Yamauchi, edited by Garrett Hongo (The Feminist Press: $14.95; 257 pp., paperback original). In her highly acclaimed fiction, Yamauchi examines the bleak lives of women struggling to preserve Japanese traditions in American settings. Her spare, highly condensed prose evokes the complex emotions that run beneath the surface of mundane lives; the characters "yearn for a more forgiving land, a truer love, and we huddle together for comfort and protection." Her writing is so tightly compressed that two of her brief stories have been expanded into the plays, "And the Soul Shall Dance" and "The Music Lessons."

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