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Susan Rakstang’s memoir recalls her early life as the child of Japanese-American parents and her mother’s cooking lessons full of delicious tastes, exquisite fragrances, and the visual art of preparing food; through her fast-paced, frenzied years in a battle with time juggling her responsibilities as a wife, mother of two children, and working outside the home as an architect—a pioneering path not often pursued by women in the mid-1970s—and then after retirement, when life suddenly takes a dark turn.
Susan’s beloved mother suffers a stroke and her friend Margaret, a pastry chef, receives a terrifying diagnosis of stage-four cancer of the tongue. With both women’s lives hanging perilously in the balance, Susan spends her days and evenings alternately tending to each. Learning Margaret’s cancer treatment will cause horrific pain and temporary loss of taste, Susan develops a pureed food preparation technique for her friend’s meals, focusing on the natural, visual beauty of food, and cooks for Margaret’s eyes.
Blending the detail and precision of an architect with the color, tempo, and texture of her classical music roots, Susan beckons her readers to embrace their senses as she takes them on her journey of music, food, love, and death in Cooking for Her Eyes. Organizing her story as Beethoven structured his Sonata No. 8, she transcribes her anxiety, passion, joy, sorrow, and resolution as the maestro expressed in his sonata.
"Authors like to talk vaguely of structuring their books 'like music,' but they should all look to Susan Uehara Rakstang for how to do it right! Basing Cooking for Her Eyes on her own harmonic analysis of Beethoven's Pathetique sonata, she subtly but unmistakably weaves her own themes and key changes into a memoir that is deeply personal and filled with life's tiny details. [...] It's a wonderful, subtly crafted accomplishment of a memoir. It is about the quiet, heartbreaking beauty of the mundane details. The everyday and ordinary made extraordinary and precious."
—Dr. David Arbury, PhD, composer and professor of music theory, Los Angeles City College
"This book has so many wonderful different layers to draw in the reader. A beautiful memoir of life, death, and relationships, Susan's is an empowering story of finding one's place in the world and shows her personal Japanese American experience—a powerful thing for the community, and a valuable glimpse into that community for all audiences. Like all good books, it was bittersweet to arrive at its ending!"
—Michael Takada, CEO of the Japanese American Service Committee
"Cooking for her Eyes is a generous invitation, a moving walk through time revealing Susan's intelligence in terms of character development and attention to the right details. A passionate reading experience is the result: between essential vicissitudes and raw power of the senses, this book is proof of life, undisputably."
—Marc Louis-Boyard, founder and editor of Slow Culture Magazine