Anything World War II always interests me, I love that time period and love studying different aspects of it. So while it was a slower read than I’m used to (not one I stayed up in the wee hours reading), I thought Ford did an excellent job researching and presenting what life was like for Japanese Americans in World War II. From how they were treated in everyday life through the internment camps. One of tragic tragic parts of American history, but part of our history nonetheless. Through the eyes of a young boy, we get a glimpse of life for both adults and young kids.
An unexpected surprise was Sheldon, a black musician who befriended Henry and Keiko as young kids in 1942. I liked his character and his wisdom throughout the book.
Overall, even while a bit predictable, I thought it was sweet story of friendship, family, reconciliation and love.
Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle’s Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings of Japanese families, left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II. As Henry looks on, the owner opens a Japanese parasol.
This simple act takes old Henry Lee back to the 1940s, at the height of the war, when young Henry’s world is a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who is obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American. While “scholarshipping” at the exclusive Rainier Elementary, where the white kids ignore him, Henry meets Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American student. Amid the chaos of blackouts, curfews, and FBI raids, Henry and Keiko forge a bond of friendship–and innocent love–that transcends the long-standing prejudices of their Old World ancestors. And after Keiko and her family are swept up in the evacuations to the internment camps, she and Henry are left only with the hope that the war will end, and that their promise to each other will be kept.
Forty years later, Henry Lee is certain that the parasol belonged to Keiko. In the hotel’s dark dusty basement he begins looking for signs of the Okabe family’s belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot begin to measure. Now a widower, Henry is still trying to find his voice–words that might explain the actions of his nationalistic father; words that might bridge the gap between him and his modern, Chinese American son; words that might help him confront the choices he made many years ago.
Have you read this? I’d love to hear your thoughts about it!