An intimately detailed look at the agony of a Japanese-American family struggling to maintain American loyalty amid discrimination and war.
Historian and teacher Sakamoto weaves a richly textured narrative history of the Fukuhara family, who moved from Hiroshima to Auburn, Washington, in 1926. However, financial issues after the death of the father forced them to move back in 1933. Somewhat typically at the time, the family was made up of the first-generation immigrants—businessman Katsuji and homemaker Kinu—and their five American-born children. The two eldest, Mary and Victor, were sent back to Hiroshima to help their aunt in her lucrative candy-making business, then subsequently returned to the U.S. as teenagers, culturally confused kibei whose English had been mostly forgotten. Harry, the spirited middle son and the one most thoroughly Americanized, was not happy about the move back to Japan, though his five-year stay allowed him the language immersion that would be invaluable during World War II, when, interned with his sister Mary at the Gila River Relocation Center, Arizona, in the fall of 1942, he was plucked by the Army for intelligence translation in the Pacific theater. The Japanese-speaking author offers fascinating research into the lives of these conflicted immigrants. At the time, Japanese-American youth who served in the Japanese army automatically relinquished their American citizenship, which Harry, by moving back to the U.S. at age 18, refused to do, unlike his other brothers. The specter of the atomic bomb hovers ominously over the narrative, and while most of the Hiroshima family managed to survive, the physical and psychological scarring were gruesome and lasting. American soldier Harry’s resolution to return to Japan in October 1945 to find his family forms a poignant closure to this remarkable tale.
A beautifully rendered work wrought with enormous care and sense of compassionate dignity.