Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers A Novel

Lois-Ann Yamanaka




Trade Paperback

320 Pages



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Her name is Lovey Nariyoshi, and her Hawai'i is not the one of leis, pineapple, and Magnum P.I. In the blue collar town of Hilo, on the Big Island, Lovey and her eccentric Japanese-American family are at the margins of poverty, in the midst of a tropical paradise. With her endearing, effeminate best friend Jerry, Lovey suffers schoolyard bullies, class warfare, Singer sewing classes, and the surprisingly painful work of picking on a macadamia nut plantation, all while trying to find an identity of her own. At once a satire of haole happiness and a meditation on what is real, if ugly at times, but true, Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers crackles with the language of Pidgin—Hawai’i Creole English.


Praise for Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers

"A rare book—exuberant, fresh-voiced, rich, crazy and stabbing, comic and as true-toned as a crystal glass taped with a knife."—Annie Proulx

"Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers has power and charm. A bold and skillful combination of languages . . . [it] belongs on the shelf near Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye."—Literary Supplement Quarterly

"Yamanaka's voice is clear and distinct, capturing the people and events in sensitive and exciting language . . . An important and memorable debut."—San Francisco Sunday Examiner & Chronicle
"Lovey Nariyoshi is coming of age in a Japanese-American family in Hawaii, and longs to be white. Her unpredictable family doesn't understand her struggles with two cultures and her need to fit in, while Lovey herself doesn't fit the ideal of a white woman's personality. A memorable, engrossing coming-of-age story about a rebellious teen's many personal and cultural difficulties."—Midwest Book Review
"Poet Yamanaka has said, 'With language rests culture,' and in her vibrant first novel, she resoundingly affirms the dialect spoken within her own family and around Hawaii among plantation workers of various ethnic backgrounds. In choosing to tell her story in "Pidgin"—a commingled Hawaiian creole English—Yamanaka's touching coming-of-age tale emerges as an exceptional and expressive cultural document as well. Unfolding in a series of lucid, painfully funny vignettes, protagonist Lovey Nariyoshi's childhood is a long and continuous struggle to know her true self. While no role models exist for this young Japanese American girl growing up on the Big Island, family members and friends provide their own unique if at times burdensome support system. At once poignant and very funny, Yamanaka's voice demands to be heard."—Alice Joyce, Booklist
"In her novel, the author presents the history of a Japanese American family living in Hawaii in the 1970s. The narrator, Lovey Nariyoshi, tells her story of growing up in a white ('haole') culture that keeps her family segregated. 'No japs on TV,' observes Lovey, 'except Mrs. Livingston and Kay-to.' This engrossing novel is strongly woven together, with chapters that swing from the heartfelt, childhood memories of Lovey's father, Hubert, to the fiendish behavior of her neighbors. Hawaiian Creole is dispersed effectively with English, further corroborating the fervent characters and their stories. By focusing decisively on her own distinct culture, the author successfully uncovers the damaging restrictions of American culture at large. This commanding novel should delight and haunt every reader. Unconditionally recommended."—David A. Berona, Library Journal

Reviews from Goodreads



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Lois-Ann Yamanaka has written a book of poetry, three prior works of fiction, and a young-adult novel. She has won a Lannan Literary Award and an American Book Award. She lives in Honolulu.
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  • Lois-Ann Yamanaka

  • Lois-Ann Yamanaka has written a book of poetry, three prior works of fiction, and a young-adult novel. She has won a Lannan Literary Award and an American Book Award. She lives in Honolulu.
  • Lois-Ann Yamanaka LoAhn P. Nguyen