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The Intertwined Minds of Lori-Parks and Ozeki

KatarinaKF's picture

The Intertwined Minds of Lori-Parks and Ozeki

"Getting Mother's Body" by Suzan Lori-Parks and "All Over Creation" by Ruth Ozeki tell different stories of two young women journeying through their life to learn who they will become. Lori-Parks tells the story of Billy Beede, a sixteen-year-old pregnant girl and her relatives living in Texas in the sixties. Billy journeys to Arizona find buried treasure with her dead mother. And Ozeki tells the story of Yumi Fuller, a fifteen-year-old girl in the seventies who runs away from her family in Idaho, and then returns twenty-five years later to confront her dying parents. You might be thinking that these stories are more different than similar but on the contrary, they are not. The relationship between the two stories are more similar than different because they both address topics such as relationships with parents, maturing up at a young age, and taking journeys which helps rediscover their identities.  

Billy Beede strongly disliked her mother. She would not even call her mother "mother", she would call her by her first name, Willa Mae. Throughout the book, she stated how when her mother "passed and it didn't bother me none.  I was glad to see her go" (9). She commonly reassured others that, "I ain't no Willa Mae" (18). Willa Mae was not the greatest maternal figure and role model, which is why Billy dislikes her.

Yumi, also dislikes her parent, which in this case is her father. She does not refer to him as "Daddy" but by his first name, "Lloyd". She used to have a close relationship with her father until she ran away after her father found out she was having an affair with her teacher. "You probably still think I'm an evil sinner and I'll go to hell for all my wrongdoings … I'd grow up all screwy and bent with the weight of your shame. So I left. It was an evacuation Daddy" (37).

Even though both characters talked about how they disliked their parents, they often reminisced of the fond and loving memories they had with their mother or father. In "Getting Mother's Body", Billy stated, "Sometimes I dream of Mother and me driving. She's got on her jewels and a fur coat. She asks me to read out the signs and I can't read none of them … When she was living her voice was low and deep, like riding on a gravel road … I wonder if, when they pave the supermarket over, I'll still dream of her" (64). And similarly, Yumi states, "Oh yeah, your allegiances were firmly with Daddy. And Daddy would chuckle. Pat your cheek. He was always shy with his love as you were ferocious with yours, but even if its expression was tentative, the fact of his love was absolute" (19). What caused the strain in their relationships with their parents? Yumi even questioned, "So what the f – happened?" (19).

When you have sex at an early age, you are forced to mature faster than others, especially if you become a teen mom. For both Billy and Yumi, they too had to grow up faster than other teenagers their age. I also realized both had sex with older men, and men who treated them poorly. Billy, “only sixteen with a baby inside her and no husband yet” (19), was carrying the child of a man who had another family of his own.

Yumi, also got pregnant and ended up getting an abortion, “She had an affair with one of our teachers at school…She was only fourteen” (34). Also the fact that Yumi ran away at an early age made her grow up quickly as well. She had to learn how to live on her own without the guidance of her parents. Luckily Billy had her Aunt and Uncle, who served as parental figures. But Billy was going to have a baby at a young age, meaning she needs to dedicate all of her time on her growing child, even though she is still growing as well.

            Finally, both young women have taken a journey, which in turn helps them rediscover themselves. Originally, Billy Beede wanted to “go get me Willa Mae’s treasure” (104) in order to pay for an abortion. But “When I (Billy) see her bones I knew what we all knew, that we’s all gonna end up in a grave someday, but there’s stops in between there and now” (257). This journey to dig up her mother’s grave was a self-realization for Billy. This encouraged her to live her life fully and happily. She wanted to have a different life than her mother lived. Billy discovered that she was her own person, and she can choose how she wants to live her life.

            Yumi was sent an email from her childhood friend Cass, that her father “may only have another couple of months or so left to him…Your mother…she seems to have a touch of dementia” (33). She originally flew to Idaho to go say goodbye to her parents but ends taking care of them. Yumi’s life is changing and has been since she encountered her sick and frail parents. I wonder how Yumi’s identity will change, now that she is spending time with her parents after she left them twenty-five years ago. I personally hope that Yumi can develop a better relationship with her son Phoenix in later chapters.

            After identifying many similarities between the two stories, I wonder if I will encounter more as I read. I already know Billy Beede has a happy ending. I think that Billy’s journey to get her mother’s body made her more appreciative of life that in turn encourages her live her life to the fullest. I truly hope that Yumi learns to become more appreciative of life, as Billy has, to better her relationships with her family. Part of me hopes that Lloyd will learn to forgive Yumi for her mistakes in the past because as he knows, he does not have many months left.



Lori-Parks, Suzan. (2003). Getting Mother’s Body: A Novel. New York. Random House.

Ozeki, Ruth. (2003). All Over Creation. New York. Viking. 


Anne Dalke's picture

I’m glad you took up the challenge of exploring the relationship between Parks’ and Ozeki’s novels, seemingly so different in details, but so strikingly alike in taking up similar themes of self-maturation (in relationship both to one’s parents and one’s place of growing up: identity and environment indeed!).

Your revision of this paper will of course have to take into account the remainder of Ozeki’s novel: what does happen between Yumi and her parents? One idea that strikes me right now is that Willa Mae is so ‘immoral’ (in terms of standard social expectations about honesty in dealing with others), while Lloyd is so unbendingly ‘moral’ (in terms of conventional Christian values); how do those different orientations play out in the intensity of their children’s separation from them?

Another thought I have is that it might actually be more productive to trace-and-compare the mother-daughter relationships in each novel. You make such an interesting point about the realization that comes to Billy @ her mother’s grave, her commitment—once she sees the reality of death-- to living a different life. Yumi will take her mother back to Hawaii with her, after her father’s death…could you do something with that very different ending? (But then, writing this, of course I re-realize that Yumi’s father will die, as Billy’s mother did, so maybe the father-daughter relationship will actually be the more interesting one to develop? Dunno!)

In any case, your challenge, in this revision, will be to turn this full account of the like-and-different details of the two novels from a description into an argument. Right now it’s operating at the level of your anticipating where Ozeki’s novel will go, but once those questions are answered, what sense/meaning can you make of the comparison you’ve developing? What claim can you make that moves beyond an account of the plotlines?

Looking forward to finding out!