The Material Child: Coming of Age in Japan and America
by Merry White
What does it mean to be an adolescent in today's world? Are teens from different cultures becoming increasingly similar as they become subject to the ... Show synopsis What does it mean to be an adolescent in today's world? Are teens from different cultures becoming increasingly similar as they become subject to the same media and pop influences? And how do these influences shape adolescents' perceptions of their lives and their futures? What roles do parents and teachers play in this process? In The Material Child, Merry White explores the world of the teenager in two significantly different modern societies, Japan and America. Drawing on the voices of adolescents themselves, she offers an in-depth look at the sexuality, school work, family relationships, leisure activities, friendships, and buying behavior of the young in both worlds. Through her analysis, White shows that although adolescents in the United States and Japan may share the same taste in pizza, pop music, and leather jackets, they remain very different from each other. The Japanese teen, for example, is sexually sophisticated, but dependent and childish by American standards. In contrast, our adolescents are more independent and worldly on some fronts, but surprisingly ignorant sexually. The author also explores Japanese fears for their teens versus the U.S. fear of their teens, showing how these contrasting anxieties developed and how they affect the behavior of the adolescents themselves. And White takes a new look at our youths' work ethics and our educational systems, arguing that we are neither a nation in decline as some have maintained nor is Japan necessarily a model to be emulated in these areas. Through the author's analysis, we see that it is a far more complicated issue than recent controversy suggests. In The Material Child, Merry White paints a fascinating and richportrait of youth today, and, in the process, gives us much needed insights into our own culture in relation to that of our most important partner and competitor.