I was a teenager when I first learned about the Japanese internment. Although I grew up in Washington, and knew many Japanese families at my church, I did not know about this sad part of our history. I learned about it at the public library, doing research on the Jewish concentration camps. I remember the disbelief, the horror and disappointment in my country when I realized what we as a people had done, how lines had been drawn and divided and families and histories sundered because of blind, mindless fear. How horribly this echoed the atrocities half a world away. I remember feeling ashamed for weeks afterward when I encountered the older Japanese people at my church, and I knew they had lived through that -- yet they seemed at peace and content, more patriotic than I.
My mom lived in Germany for a while, and she always used to pore over stories of Jewish concentration camp survivors; of Germans who risked their lives and welfare to help some small number survive or escape. It was a constant source of grief and confusion to her that the people she had lived with and loved -- good, honest people -- had turned a blind eye to the atrocities in their country. She never could figure it out. I feel a measure of that when I consider this dark section in our history.
This is a brilliant, heartbreaking book. The writing and tone is not quite as melancholy as Snow Falling on Cedars, but it's still really well done. I'm enjoying it so far, and I love the pov the author chose. There's one moment, where the protagonist is watching the Japanese being hearded out of Seattle, and he wonders if the portrait brides are being separated from their white, American husbands. I had a sudden visceral desire to read that story, and I felt the echoing loss of not only the Japanese culture, but all that America lost when this stupid, horrific, unjustifiable act was committed. The depth of history, the bonds of trust -- the basic American integrity, all stripped and damaged, perhaps irreparably.