A young teen at a Hawaiian military school near the end of World War II contemplates his future in Fernandez’s (Kaua’i Kids in Peace and War, 2013, etc.) autobiographical series.
After retiring in California, Fernandez’s father sent his 14-year-old, Hawaii-born son to military school in Honolulu. It was 1944, when the world was still at war. But even once the war was over, Hawaii remained at unrest: a labor union—on hold due to implementation of martial law—launched a workers’ strike, while a tsunami hit Kauai and Hilo. Fernandez, who’d experienced racism in Hawaii, toured the mainland U.S. with his family and found a nation with unbridled prejudices and discrimination. His father wanted him to study to be a lawyer, leaving Fernandez, who feared Hawaiians might have no future in their homeland, to consider his options. The author’s memoir is a riveting account of his experience in a world in disarray, both during and after the war. WWII is aptly displayed, particularly the pervasive fear of nuclear weapons as well as the worry of communists infiltrating America. But what makes the grandest impression is the more personal side of the narrative. Fernandez, for example, is Portuguese-Hawaiian, but his brown skin and surname lead some to mistake him for a Mexican, mistreating him accordingly. Similarly, his family witnessed a hotel clerk reject service for a Jewish couple after seeing the man’s last name. In Tennessee, Fernandez had to stop and think about which of the segregated restrooms he could use, while the situation in Mexico proved equally appalling: just the lighter-skinned citizens, it seems, had jobs or money. Particularly regaling are Fernandez’s descriptions of beaches surrounded by barbed-wire fences and fishing near the shore. Readers will be especially intrigued by events that brought Fernandez to his transformative decision to attend Stanford University.
Engrossing and identifiable.