Janice Hall Heck

Finding hope in a chaotic world…

Archive for the tag “Japanese internment camps”

NaBloPoMo 25. It’s Monday. What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday. What Are You Reading? 

Several weeks ago, I posted a book review of The Red Kimono by Jan Morrill. This book tells of a Japanese family who lived in San Francisco at the beginning of WWII, but who were forced from their home to live in an internment camp in Arkansas.

002Karen, my reading buddy, gave me another book on the same topic. When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka. This short novel of five chapters and 132 pages tells the story of a Japanese family destroyed by a war with which they had no part. Each member of the family tells a part of the story, picking up the story where the previous member left off.

Chapter 1. “Evacuation Order No. 19.” The narrator begins with the mother, who has no name, and tells her story in an unemotional, detached manner. It is almost as if the mother is a bystander who watches the story unravel in front of her, and the story is so painful that she cannot bear to be a part of it. She sheds no tears. She locks her feelings within and does what she must do to comply with the posted evacuation orders that have appeared around Berkeley, CA., in the spring of 1942.

She goes home and methodically dismantles her life. (Her husband, a well-to-do, well-traveled businessman, has already been arrested and taken to a military prison as a Japanese enemy alien.)  She sorts and packs for the imminent forced move, puts some things aside, throws others away, and burns or destroys the treasures that formed the core of her character: family photographs, three silk kimonos, a Japanese flag, and the abacus. She dispatches the White Dog, the chicken in the yard, the family bird, and the bottle of plum wine in quick order. Tomorrow they leave for an unknown destination for an unknown amount of time, where time and days will melt together in the heat.

Chapter 2. “Train” The nameless 11-year-old girl, with something of an attitude, picks up the story and describes the train trip to the internment camp in the desert at Topaz, Utah, where the mother, the girl, and the boy, begin life in one of the hundreds of tar-paper shacks with no running water, surrounded by barbed-wire fences. In clips of daily life and flashbacks, the girl portrays the hopelessness of their situation.

Chapter 3. “When the Emperor Was Divine” In the beginning of the stay in Topaz, the eight-year-old boy thought he saw his father everywhere, but he was not to be found. The boy watches the mother despair about their living situation. At night, he dreams of the father, the Emperor, and the cute little blonde girl who lived nearby back home. The nameless boy remembers her full name: Elizabeth Morgana Roosevelt. He, perhaps, holds out the most hope for the family: at least the father can find them here in the internment camp.

Chapter 4. “In a Stranger’s Backyard.” The story moves to third-person plural point of view. “We.” The mother, the girl, the boy each receive twenty-five dollars and train fare to go home to a life very different from life before the war.

Chapter 5. “Confession” The father speaks in first person, “I,” and tells his story of pain, humiliation, and of being imprisoned for being “too short, too dark, too ugly, too proud.” He may be free now from captivity, but he is definitely not free.

The stories tell the story in this book. The mother, the girl, the boy do not tell of the emotional pain they suffer; they show it. Readers will feel the depth of their pain as they follow these four individuals through three dark years and traumatic years.

This book succinctly describes a terrible time in our American history. It is well worth reading to gain a perspective on this historical period and the innocent Japanese Americans who suffered through it.

NaBloPoMo 8: WANAFriday: What Would I Do?

NaBloPoMo=National Blog Posting Month. Challenge: Write a post a day in November.

WANA=We Are Not Alone, a group of bloggers who provide mutual support for our writing and blogging efforts. Shepherded by by Kristen Lamb.
WANA Challenge: Write a #WANAFriday post every Friday with a prompt posted by one of our members.

This week’s #wanafriday question/theme comes from WANAite, Cora Ramos.

How did the last book you read change you, or not. What do you want from a good book?
In recent weeks, I have posted several reviews on books I have recently read:
I found each of these books to be well-written and each had a significant message.
I wouldn’t say that these books changed me, but I must admit that I have thought about their messages a number times since finishing them. How would I hold up under these circumstances? What decisions would I make when faced with these incomprehensible challenges?
001 (23)In The Red Kimono, a Japanese family living in San Francisco in 1941, faces discrimination, character assassination, and brutal loss of freedom through no fault of their own.
The story, written by Jan Morrill, relates events that happened in her own family’s world. In reading this book, you face the reality of war-time human interactions and shake your head. How could this happen in our own country? Both major and minor characters struggle with the complexities of a world gone crazy with fear and hate. The characters each learn something in their struggle to survive in their pain and suffering. And the characters have lessons for the reader, too. It is a powerful story, beautifully told.
001The House I Loved by Tatiana de Rosnay is historical fiction, set in Paris, France in the 1860s, when a powerful government under Emperor Napoleon III  decided to modernize Paris by tearing down entire quaint neighborhoods and rebuilding with grand boulevards and modern architecture.
This touching story relates how people from these intimate neighborhoods coped with the change: the young and realistic coped and moved on; the elderly suffered and struggled with overwhelming change in their lives.
Rose Bazelet decided to fight the modernization incursion in her little neighborhood in her own way, and in the meantime, she confronted long-held secrets. The book, written in letters to her late husband, Armand, describe the horror of the destruction of near-by neighborhoods. Soon the destruction reaches her own dearly-loved neighborhood. It’s coming closer and closer to Rose’s house. Now it’s time…
Tatiana de Rosnay, named one of the top three fiction writers in Europe in 2010, wrote NYT  bestsellers Sarah’s Key and A Secret Kept.
001M.L. Stedman’s book, Light Between Oceans, presents a compelling moral dilemma for a young, childless couple, Tom and Isabel Sherbourne, who have suffered multiple miscarriages in their short marriage. Isabel’s emotional well-being is tied up in these miscarriages.
The lighthouse keeper has emotional problems of his own dealing with his memories of battles in Europe in WWI. He was one of the lucky ones who arrived home still in one piece, but his memories of battles and close friends who died there, torment him.
Now living on an isolated lighthouse island off the coast of Australia, the couple discovers a dinghy on the beach with a dead man and a live baby in it. How could this be? Is it an answer to Isabel’s prayers and pleading for a child? They can’t possibly fathom why, but here is a live baby that needs care. Is it their responsibility to care for this baby? What is their responsibility in this situation?
The decisions they make have long-ranging consequences. This book is both compelling and heart-breaking.
Why did I like these books?
1. Historical fiction (or books with historical settings) are among my favorites. I love reading about other times and other places.
2. Each one of these books has a compelling story, with complications that challenged the main character’s (and even minor character’s) whole lives and belief systems. These books raise many questions:
How do people react when their worlds fall apart?
Do they rely on their past moral instruction, or do they make it up as they go along.
What are the consequences do they face when going with their hearts and not their reason?
How do people cope with tragedy in their lives? Do they stand up to and go on? Do they fall apart?
What character traits belong to each group?
Would we be like this person or that person?
3. These books give many hours of pleasurable reading, although the tension, at times, runs high.
We don’t know how we would react in these extreme situations, but we hope we would act in accordance with our own long-help beliefs, values, and principles.
The Last Meow
Yes, Missy Jan, I know you like to read, but could you just let me finish my breakfast in peace? Please? I have a busy day scheduled. After I eat, I will play, sleep, then eat again. Let me get started!
Photo: Crash the Cat by Kathy Cherry

Photo: Crash the Cat by Kathy Cherry

Meow for now! =<^;^>=

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