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Parenting in All Over Creation - Idea Board

amanda.simone's picture

While I have been reading Ruth Ozeki’s novel All Over Creation, I’ve been thinking about maternity and parenting. This theme, which carries over from Getting Mother’s body, emerges through many of Ozeki’s characters. Yumi leaves home because she feels like her parents, Lloyd and Momoko, do not understand her lifestyles. As a result, she lives most of her life without the roles of parents in her life. The way in which Yumi parents her own kids has many dynamics as well. She doesn’t seem to show a lot of love, and Cass’s character to contrast this. Although she and Will have been unable to have kids of their own, Cass is the most loving toward Yumi’s children, especially Poo. I think there is an interesting juxtaposition between Cassie’s desperation and infertility and Yumi’s indifference (maybe not the right word) and prolificacy. Furthermore, Charmey is pregnant with her and Frank’s child. While she is apparently eager to have a child, Frank isn’t ready.

As the novel deals with the intersection of science and society/social dynamics with respect to agriculture, the issue of parenthood also deals with the intersection of genetics and upbringing: the classic nature vs. nurture tug of war.


Questions I will be thinking about as I keep reading:

  • How are maternity and paternity different?

  • How is Yumi’s parenting different than the parenting she received?

  • Is Yumi the kind of parent she want to be?

  • How does Yumi show love to her kids?

  • How else does she interact with her kids? How do they interact with her?

    • Cursing

    • Calling her Yummy

  • How have her kids been molded by her parenting?

  • Are there other relevant instances of parenting in the novel?

  • How does the Cass and Yumi contrast develop? (I know it does - haven’t gotten there yet)

  • How does the nature vs nurture theme develop in the novel?

    • All of Yumi’s kids have different fathers

  • Does this connect to Getting Mother’s Body? Do I want to explore that?

  • How does culture/heritage/geography affect parenting?



Lots on pages 129-131:

“When she had him along, the world looked different, and she liked the way she saw things she'd never seen before. . . But she noticed other things, too -- the way she herself felt acutely visible with the baby in her arms, and the way some people's faces lit up when they saw a child. His warm weight was like living ballast, thrumming with energy, giving her substance. Folks were drawn to that.”

“When she had him along she could tell a lot about people. She could recognize the mother’s immediately from their knowing smiles, and she was surprised at the bond she felt with them..”


Page 147:

“Fine. Look at the way they dress then. You would never have let me out of the house dressed like that.

“Didn’t seem to stop you. You left anyway.”

“I left because you couldn’t tolerate my lifestyle.”

“You left because you couldn’t face your mother and me after what you’d done.”

She’d been fourteen years old. How can a fourteen-year-old have a lifestyle?


Page 136:

“When I was a little girl, I used to make him presents -- ashtrays from plasticine and macaroni paintings. I would wait, so excited, for him to come home from the fields before my clay cracked or my noodles came unstuck. Darting to the window or onto the porch, I’d search the horizon for the cloud of dust that signaled the approach of his pick up. When he finally walked through the door he would see me waiting and bend down and coax the offering from behind my back. “My my my,” he’d say, turning the object over in his hands. “It’s exactly what I wanted.”



Anne Dalke's picture

I’m really liking the way you approached this draft, as a collective of ideas, quotes and questions. Will be very interested to see how it takes shape, this Friday, as a full-blown paper, one informed by your having finished the whole novel. The two bits, among these notes that interest me most are the possibility of your exploring

* that “interesting juxtaposition between Cassie’s desperation and infertility and Yumi’s indifference and prolificacy,” along with Charmey’s eagerness (and perhaps its relationship to her belief that she will die early?); and

* “the classic nature vs. nurture tug of war,” as played out in parallel (?) both “with respect to agriculture” and in “parenthood,” in “the intersection of genetics and upbringing.” What’s pre-determined, what’s variable?

This question puts me in mind of an interesting interview with the very well-known Evelyn Fox Keller (an American physicist and feminist, now retired from teaching History and Philosophy of Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology). I think she was responding to the kerfluffle Larry Summers had created (about 10 years ago!) about the low numbers of women in the fields of science and engineering; he’d spoken about “variability of intrinsic aptitude…reinforced by lesser factors involving socialization and continuing discrimination.”

 Fox Keller said she wondered
"why there should be so much enthusiasm for the idea" that people are born, not made... there is "nothing special" about birth as a line of demarcation in development, since even in the womb environment affects how genes are expressed. "When we talk about innate and acquired it is rarely clear where to draw the line...and where to draw the line is rarely stable."" (Cornelia Dean, "Evelyn Fox Keller: Scientist at Work. Theorist Draw Into Debate 'That Will Not Go Away.'" The New York Times April 12, 2005. F2.)

How might this play out in thinking about genetically modified plants?

Looking forward to finding out where you go with this!