Friday, March 11, 2011

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

On February 19, 1942 President Franklin Roosevelt signed an Executive Order that sent 110,000 Japanese Americans to interment camps in Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Arkansas, Colorado and California...

Los Angeles Times Editorial...
"A viper is nonetheless a viper wherever the egg is hatched... So, a Japanese American born of Japanese parents, nurtured upon Japanese traditions, living in a transplanted Japanese atmosphere... notwithstanding his nominal brand of accidental citizenship almost inevitably and with the rarest exceptions grows up to be a Japanese, and not an American... Thus, while it might cause injustice to a few to treat them all as potential enemies, I cannot escape the conclusion... that such treatment... should be accorded to each and all of them while we are at war with their race."

I hated to see that a bus from my beloved Sun Valley was used for this purpose...

Even though this book tells the story of one of the most shameful bits of American history, it is a beautifully written story of love and honor.
Henry Lee is a boy with troubles to spare. He is a Chinese-American elementary school student who is sent to an all white school. The white kids don't like him and the Chinese children in his neighborhood don't like him either. He is a solitary boy.
Henry's father is a man obsessed and eventually destroyed by hatred. He provides little comfort for Henry by insisting that the boy speak "American" and since his parent speak only Chinese, it insures for almost no conversation. Henry's mother does what she can to give Henry love and comfort, but she is very traditional and honors her husband's wishes in all things.
If it weren't for Sheldon, the saxophone playing jazz musician, Henry would be truly friendless.
Then, Henry meets the lovely little Keiko, a Japanese American girl who comes to attend the all white school with him just after Japan attacks Pearl Harbor...
This is a wonderful book... When you pick it up, make sure you've carved out the day.


Circe said...

Wonderful review! I can't wait to read it.

love.boxes said...

It's yours next then :)

Janice said...

I have read this one and many others dealing with the Japanese internment. It is a very sad part of our history, but I think we need to be more kind to those who imposed it. It was such a scary time in the United States and what the Japanese did to the American soldiers in Japan is some of the more horrific acts of brutality during WWII.

I often think of the fear in the US right after 911. And, we have carried "non-judgement" too far. We are now subject to illegal search in a airport because we are not allowed to profile people. There is no probable cause and my 9 year old daughter can be touched and groped by TSA officials. It is wrong.

I am not defending the interment camps but I can say I am conflicted by them. In one hand, I know it is wrong, on the other, I know Japan attacked us on American soil and they didn't know who was siding with who. Currently, we know their are cells in the United States working to destroy us and our politicians aren't willing to stop them.

love.boxes said...

I agree with your second paragraph there totally Janice, but I do judge the people harshly who carried out the internment. I lay a lot of blame at FDR because I think he should have showed greater leadership. (I think he was one of the worst U.S. Presidents even rivaling the current train wreck).
As the book here points out, some of these people didn't even speak Japanese, they were citizens even second generation and many of these men fought for their country while their country kept their families in prison.
Profiling is so much more than just racial. Race is only one very shallow component. For example, a suicide terrorist goes through a purification ritual, they will sometimes shave all the hair off hands and arms etc. And then there are hundreds of other clues that at trained profiler would know to look for. I don't even know if it should be called racial profiling or if it should be called cultural profiling because they are looking for a jihadist, not an Arab. I believe strongly in profiling.
Lastly, the Japanese were very brutal to our servicemen during the war, but so were the Germans. And we were also at war with the Italians, but German and Italian Americans were not interned and that leads me to believe that this was purely racial.
As far as the TSA goes. I'm glad someone cares. We have an oportunity to fly to sunny Calif. with C, but I just feel that on moral grounds I can't do it. I can't subject my daughters to that. I may be a road tripper from now on.

michelle said...

I am glad you liked it. Always the sign of a good book when it makes you think and talk about new issues. You make me want to read it again!