... poignant ... The memoir becomes a testament to the importance of their lives as Asian women, as mother and daughter, and an apology for all the years Brina thought otherwise ... strongest when Brina is recounting, with piercing candidness and clarity, the almost claustrophobic world of an only child and her parents — their shifting allegiances, the wounds they inflict on each other and their rocky path toward acceptance, apology and forgiveness. The memoir is also a portrait of the devastating effects of imperialism and racism on a person’s identity, self-worth and relationships—and offers a perspective on how a person can combat these legacies.
This is how a woman in her 40s comes to terms with her identity in a supposedly racially aware America. It’s a story written with pathos, humour, grace and a massive dose of cringe ... The real skill here lies in the empathy the author has for her parents and for her younger self ... This is ultimately a study in the intricate survival mechanisms we use to cope with what’s going on around us ... The family story is interwoven with the mind-bendingly unfortunate history of Okinawa, which is recounted here in fascinating, vivid historical asides ... Her writing is so warm and honest that you find yourself rooting for her and her parents, thrilled at her 'adult learner' conversations with her mother in stilted Japanese, willing them all to find a way to understand one another. This is quite simply a brilliantly original and affecting memoir.
[A] masterful memoir in which Brina examines the complex relationship she has with her interracial parents ... Speak, Okinawa is both a mediation on Brina’s own family as well as a powerful history of the United States occupation of Okinawa, where it maintains a massive military presence to this day ... Brina’s writing is crisp, captivating and profound ... As educational as it is entertaining, Speak, Okinawa is well worth the read.