STUBBORN TWIG by Lauren Kessler

STUBBORN TWIG

Three Generations in the Life of a Japanese American Family

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A harrowing recounting of a shameful chapter in American history. Kessler (Journalism/University of Oregon; After All These Years, 1990) is writing as much about one particular immigrant family as about all those malevolent ills that lie beneath the surface only to burst into virulent bloom in times of national stress. By the early 1930's, and despite the Depression, Japanese immigrant Masuo Yasui could be described as a success. Emigrating from Japan at the age of 16, he'd settled in Hood River, Oregon, converted to Christianity, and come to own more than a thousand acres of prime land, a flourishing general store, and numerous franchises. Meanwhile, his son became the first Japanese-American to graduate from law school, while Masuo's six other children were either in, or en route to, college. But Pearl Harbor ended it all, although Kessler notes the growing anti-Asian sentiment in the preceding years: In 1922, the Supreme Court ruled that Japanese immigrants could not become naturalized citizens; the Oregon Alien Law made Japanese land-ownership illegal; and the 1924 National Origins Act defined Japanese immigrants as ``undesirable.'' After war was declared, Masuo's wife and most of his children were interned, while Masuo himself, arrested and not freed until after the war, lost most of his property, as well as his standing in the community, and later committed suicide. Masuo's son led the legal fight for reparations, his generation understanding how fragile their place was in American society and determined to ``prove themselves better in order to be considered equal.'' Now, the third generation, after an ``almost aggressive acculturation at the hands of their parents,'' struggles to find its own identity. A somber but illuminating reminder of the perniciousness of prejudice--and of the terrible toll it exacts. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs--not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-679-41426-6
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1993




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