By David Mas Masumoto
W.W. Norton 304 pp
Hardcover, October 1998 isbn 0-393-04673-7
A Japanese-American farmer’s tribute to family, farm and community
Epitaph for a Peach – David Mas Masumoto’s successful and critically acclaimed first book – grew out of his attempt to save his orchard of old-fashioned juicy peaches from replacement by a more commercially viable brand. His glorious new book, Harvest Son, is about taking over and renewing the family farm.
In prose of zen-like clam and clarity, Masumoto relates how he learned to prune vines and survive a storm; to value the knowledge of old farmers and the rusty tool forgotten in the shed; and to take on a leadership role in his Buddhist community. He also shares life vividly in the present: how it feels to really sweat while you work; the way dust cakes on your neck when you’re driving a tractor; the pleasure of rinsing off under a cold faucet; a grandmother’s joy at hearing that her grandson will visit her birthplace; the way grapes are dried into raisins; and the way a family works together in the fields.
Masumoto celebrates the continuity in which he harvest grapes from the vines that his grandfather planted. He also mourns the losses suffered during the Japanese-American internment before he was born. But by knitting together part and future, he holds on to what matters, despite the pressures of change.
David Mas Masumoto lives with his wife and two children on their farm in Del Rey, California.
(from W.W. Norton 1998 Catalogue)
Praise for Harvest Son
“Masumoto transports us vividly to an earlier, rural American.” Washington Post Book World
“Even the act of sweating can sound lyrical in this man’s hands.”
“David Mas Masumoto, best selling author of Epitaph for a Peach, returns to the same ground but digs even deeper in a new, more ambitious book in which he lets his philosophy about man and nature emerge from an absorbing chronicle of his life and that of his Japanese antecedents.” The Economist.
“David Mas Masumoto has created a triumphant advertisement for spiritual fulfillment from the soil… A compelling and richly told story… A small masterpiece.” Bloomsbury Review
“A book full of evocative gems written by a farmer-philosopher with passionate observations and questions pertaining to family and heritage.” San Francisco Chronicle, “Editors Recommend”
“[Masumoto] can keep the reader in sharp suspense over rain on the raisin harvest… His humor is understated but pervasive. He is a remarkable writer, with a field, and a sensibility, peculiarly his own.”
“In the end, it is the past itself that is important… Masumoto works at his heritage the way he works at his vines, teasing meaning from twisted roots. A quietly persuasive memoir.” Chicago Tribune
“Immensely appealing… Masumoto’s prose is always remarkably precise and clear… David Mas Masumoto has make a mark for himself as one of the finest Japanese American writers of his generation.” Yoji Yamaguchi, Asahi Evening News
“In My Own Words” – A Summary of my book Harvest Son
by David Mas Masumoto
I think of Harvest Son as a family portrait taken over generations involving two countries, Japan and America. It begins with a search for stories about my grandparents and ends with my taking over our family farm just south of Fresno, California.
My stories explore the value of work, the cultures of Japan and rural America, and the evolving traditions that create continuity over three generations. To write about family and capture their portrait, I’m forced to grapple with the meaning of home.
Harvest Son begins with pruning vines and lessons about seeing the past and future as I clip and shape an old, bent vine. Later I journey to Japan and struggle to learn a foreign language while I have the face of a native and the tongue of a foreigner. I discover spiritual parallels between the family in California with the Japanese half of the family still on the old rice farm in southern Japan near Kumamoto.
I return to American and work with my father, taking over the farm while starting my family. I’m faced with a long and difficult learning curve as I work 20 acres of peaches, 60 acres of grapes and the challenges of bringing in a raisin crop – all the while faced with the changes of nature.
But I don’t farm in isolation and tell stories about working with farm organizations and the Japanese American rural community. I witness the sale of our old Buddhist Temple and the swelling of junk piles on all our farms.
Harvest Son ends with stories about raising family and children on the land. We are honored to work old vineyards my grandmother planted and survive a viscous hail storm that quickly humbles us.
Through stories and photographs about old shovels and pruning shears, I discover that I am “home bound”, tied to a place and family history as I struggle to plant my own roots in the land. Here are stories of many sons and daughters who fuse the emotions of many rich harvest with the warmth of family and community working together under a harvest son.
Family memories become ghosts, joining me on farm walks and coming to life with stories.
Hope you enjoy my stories and there are over 25 black and white photographs in the book that also convey a sense of family and a sense of place.