Preview of DREAM OF THE WATER CHILDREN by Wendy Cheng


A Black-Japanese Amerasian reflects on life in the present, with the traces of wars and their aftermaths.

2Leaf Press is pleased to announce the publication of Fredrick D. Kakinami Cloyd’s first book, DREAM OF THE WATER CHILDREN, MEMORY AND MOURNING IN THE BLACK PACIFIC, in June 2016.

In Dream of the Water Children, Fredrick Kakinami Cloyd delineates the ways imperialism and war are experienced across and between generations and leave lasting and often excruciating legacies in the mind, body, and relationships. The book is particularly good in detailing these costs as experienced by women and children, most vividly in cataloguing the life and emotions of Cloyd’s mother, and of Cloyd himself as a child and young man.

In incident after incident of military violence, sexual violence, social ostracism, intrafamilial cruelty, self-harm, and bullying, Cloyd shows how the social conditions created by war reverberate in our most intimate relationships. At the same time, Cloyd and his mother are never just victims: Cloyd’s spirited mother in particular defies stereotypes of Asian women and war brides as passive and silent. Throughout, Cloyd also traces moments of friendship and communal support among women and children of other mixed-race military families, as they navigated the conditions of multiple societies and cultural norms.

Dream of the Water Children shows clearly how identity formation, while always shifting with context, can never be separated from one’s position within matrices of power constituted by race, nation, class, gender, and sexuality. It might also be considered an intervention into historical memory: the multiple displacements and traumas Cloyd’s mother experiences in her life have transformed major incidents such as her real name and year of birth, or the causes of death of her mother and Cloyd’s baby twin sister, into open questions. The multiple-genre narrative weaves between scholarly notes, firsthand accounts, poetry, and creative nonfiction, showing the messiness and complexity of both history and personal experience.

Dream of the Water Children is not an easy read, as Cloyd illuminates not only the devastating effects of war between nations but also the pain of internal violence perpetrated within communities, societies, racial groups, and families. However, the persistent reader will be rewarded with a multi-faceted, thought-provoking, and deeply introspective exploration of how large-scale historical forces shape our conditions of being and inevitably make us who we are.


Wendy Cheng
Assistant Professor
School of Social Transformation Faculty
Arizona State University

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