Donald Richie Interview: Conversation with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

Writing, Film, and Japan: An Expatriate's View: Conversation with Donald Richie, writer and film critic, 9/21/01 by Harry Kreisler

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Mr. Richie, welcome to the Bay Area.

Thank you.

Where were you born and raised?

I was born and raised in a town in Ohio called Lima.

And what was it like growing up in Lima?

Oh, it's like ... really, wherever you grow up is pretty much alike. I suppose what counts is how you react to your growing up wherever you are. I mean, many people are still in Lima who were born at the same time I grew up, and a number of us are no longer there. So I think what you do is you learn what you learn where you were born, and then, if it suffices, very often you don't have a reason to do anything further; and if it doesn't, then you go out and find a place that does agree with you more.

How, in retrospect, do you think your parents shaped your character?

I think that parents shape character, negatively or positively, no matter how they intend to do it. I think that the child picks and chooses, too, a lot. I don't subscribe to the parents' responsibility in the raising of the children all that much. My mother once asked me, if she had been a better mother, would I have turned out differently? And I had to tell her that she shouldn't read anymore ladies' magazine psychology, that everything's my choice. You may not be presented with an à la carte menu, but you do have a table d'hôte. Any child, anybody growing up, has a choice, and he or she makes this choice. I made all my own choices. My parents may have done some things which made my choices more dramatic, like leaving home or going abroad, or staying the rest of my life in another country. But I can't hold them responsible, those are my choices.

Did you have any teachers or mentors even when you were still in Lima that influenced you?

I suppose you can call it one of my problems: I didn't have any role models. Boys -- girls too, I suppose -- are supposed to have some sort of role model. My family was so situated that I didn't have anybody, and my school was such that there was nobody that I chose or that chose me. And so my role models came from the books I read, the movies I saw. I don't believe I really had any life role models until I was sort of grown up.

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