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Another of Hudson's warm, compassionate portraits of the downtrodden (Meyer, Meyer, 1967; Criminal Trespass, 1985): here, a group of Japanese-Americans experience the horror of a desert internment camp during WW II. The ruefully named Camp Hope Assembly Center used to be a race track, and when the group of California Japanese-Americans first reaches it not long after Pearl Harbor, they are told it is merely a temporary residence. But temporary seems to stretch into eternity as young and old alike bed down in horse stalls, eat the wretched food, and watch blistering summer turn into frigid winter. Hudson interlocks the stories of several principals: Channing Haydon, the kindly but ineffectual camp administrator; Sam Kurihara and his Caucasian wife, a German-Jewish refugee named Nina; Tony Takahashi, a brilliant, completely Americanized anthropology student forced by the ignorant Administration to bunk with radical Japanese who hate him; and the villainous camp security officer, Caspar Schweiker, an intransigent racist who hopes to provoke the Japanese into a violent response by instituting increasingly more repressive measures. Although some of the characters benefit from their ordeal--the diminutive Mrs. Noguchi learns to fend for herself without her husband, and Nina Kurihara realizes her true value as an artist, painting portraits of the misery around her--the novel is a bleak one. Schweiker's disciplinary measures provoke a demonstration, and Tony Takahashi is beaten nearly to death by the radical Japanese. In the end, the hapless Haydon stands up to Schweiker, and the old bigot murders him in a blind rage. The Japanese-Americans are then transported to another camp that will turn out to be just as full of despair. Hudson's sense of outrage occasionally gets in the way of her novelist's objectivity, thus blunting her emotional punches, but this is, in all, a forceful tale of America's own day of infamy.

Pub Date: Oct. 5th, 1987
Publisher: Putnam