Janice Hall Heck

Finding hope in a chaotic world…

WANAFriday: Red is for . . . The Red Kimono

Each Friday, the WANA112 group posts a prompt for members to consider. This week’s prompt is a color: Red.

On my desk sits a book, The Red Kimono, by Jan Morrill, featuring an exquisite red kimono on its cover.001 (23)

Jan Morrill posted Vlogs (video blogs) of short excerpts from The Red Kimono during a 30-day vlogging challenge in April, and I happened to stumble onto one of them. Her short readings intrigued me, so I bought the book on Amazon.

* * *

On December 7th, 1941,  the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor.

Japanese Americans, both naturalized and American-born, who have lived in the United States for years, now face intense social and political scrutiny based on the shape of their faces, the slant of their eyes, the language they speak in the privacy of their own homes, and the cultural differences they display. . .  all because of the aggressive actions of a country they’d left years ago.

A Japanese American family living in San Francisco (naturalized parents, American-born children) hear the sobering news report on the radio about the devastation at Pearl Harbor. Papa and Mama instinctively know their lives will change. Nobu (17) and Sachiko (9) gain that same understanding later that day. Harassment and bullying are fast teachers.

An African American family, originally from the deep South, receives news that John Terrence Harris has been killed during the Pearl Harbor attack, leaving 17-year-old Terrence and little sisters, Missy and Patty, fatherless.

Terrence, tormented by grief, vows revenge, gathers two friends to stalk a Japanese man, any Japanese man, and harass him. They find Papa in the park with Sachiko and attack, kicking and punching, leaving him so brutalized that he is hospitalized in a coma.

Two families: entangled in grief, sorrow, anger, hatred, disbelief, racism; yet there is hope, always hope.

The story unfolds for Nobu, Sachiko, Mama, and Terrence through alternating chapters. Each person carries burdensome memories, sorrows, emotions, and secrets too painful to voice. Nobu, Sachiko, and Mama struggle to understand their new lives without their beloved Papa in this strange Arkansas internment camp. Terrence struggles with black-white prejudice in jail. The outcomes for each of these casualties far from Pearl Harbor differ, and that is the story.

I enjoyed this book, though its themes are both humbling and haunting: man’s inhumanity to man brings sorrow and disrupted lives. Tragic circumstances combine to create a compelling story, and Morrill weaves it all together in her highly successful first novel.

You can find Jan Morrill on her website and her blog, Jan Morrill Writes.

* * *

Here’s how my WANA112 friends have interpreted this prompt:

Ellen Gregory: Five favourite things RED
Kim Griffin: Red, Red, They Call Me Red
Liv Rancourt: Why Red? Why Remodel? Why Make Resolutions?
Tami Clayton: The Color Red, Powerful, Luscious, and Tasty
Kim Griffin: Red, Red, They Call Me Red

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16 thoughts on “WANAFriday: Red is for . . . The Red Kimono

  1. Pingback: Why Red? Why Remodel? Why Make Resolutions? | Liv Rancourt

  2. The Red Kimono looks like a powerful book – and a very interesting take on today’s theme. Thanks Janice!

  3. Hi Janice! Thank you for reading and reviewing The Red Kimono! I always enjoy reading people’s thoughts on the book and that time in our history, and I appreciate your kind words. 🙂

  4. The Red Kimono sounds like a deeply profound book and one that would be good to discuss in a book group. Great take on the red theme!

    • Thanks, Tami. This book combined some of my interests: history, Japan, and Japanese culture. I identified with Mama and her strong desire for her daughter to learn as much as possible about her own culture. Sachi wanted so badly to be like the other girls in her class that she resisted Mama’s efforts. You could see and feel the division in this family even before Pearl Harbor bombing set off this chain of events in SFO.

  5. Pingback: Red, Red, They Call Me Red | Kim Griffin's Blog

  6. Sounds like an interesting book and the kimono cover is lovely 🙂

  7. Pingback: Five favourite things RED | Ellen Gregory

  8. Janice – You write a compelling review and I’ve ordered The Red Kimono. Thank you for an excellent review.

    • Sheri, I’m glad you liked the review. Next week I hope to do a review of When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka. It is also about a Japanese family during wartime and their experiences in a Japanese interment camp.
      Thanks for visiting my blog. Nice to see you again.

  9. Pingback: NaBloPoMo 8: WANAFriday: What Would I Do? | JaniceHeck

  10. Pingback: NaBloPoMo 25. It’s Monday. What Are You Reading? | JaniceHeck

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