Japanese Americans -- fiction

When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka

When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka

In When the Emperor Was Divine, Julie Otsuka uses a sparse, lyrical writing style to illuminate the psychological effects of one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history. The novel opens with a portrait of an ordinary woman going about her daily chores in Berkeley, California. While en route to her local library, she sees something troubling: Evacuation Order No. 19. After reading the notice, she abandons her errands and begins preparing for life in an unfamiliar locale.

At first, the sequence of events feels dystopian or apocalyptic – the world is ending and a family is forced to prepare to face the unknown. But this narrative is a dramatization of history, not a speculative tale of the future. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government began to suspect that American citizens of Japanese ancestry might harbor allegiance to Japan. In 1942, these paranoid fantasies lead to the forcible internment of Japanese-Americans announced in Evacuation Order No. 19.  

The Flower Master

By Sujata Massey

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Rei Shimura, a twentysomething part-California girl, part-Japanese antiques dealer, can't quite find her place in Tokyo society. Lately Rei's love life has fallen off the radar screen, and despite all her efforts, her new business isn't doing much better.

At her aunt's insistence, Rei enrolls in a course in ikebana, the famous Japanese art of flower arranging. Little does she realize what a cutthroat class it will be; she's hardly completed a lesson before her instructor is murdered.  Rei is ready to track down the killer, but suddenly the case hits close to home. She and her aunt are battered by waves of police questioning, press attention, and mysterious warnings. Skeletons are rattling in her family's closet, and Rei must open the door to a dangerous secret.

Rei's in for the excitement she's been missing as her search for the truth takes her through twisting new corridors of intrigue, romance, and murder. It's up to Rei, the black sheep, to keep her family name clear-and her own life safe-from an enemy with an unknown agenda.

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The Samurai's Daughter

By Sujata Massey

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"Antiques dealer Rei Shimura is in San Francisco visiting her parents and researching a personal project tracing the story of 100 years of Japanese decorative arts through her own family's experience. Her work is interrupted by the arrival of her boyfriend, lawyer Hugh Glendinning, who is involved in a class action lawsuit on behalf of aged Asian nationals forced to engage in slave labour for Japanese companies during World War II.

"These two projects suddenly intertwine when one of Hugh's clients is murdered and Rei begins to uncover unsavoury facts about her own family's actions during the war. Rei unravels the truth, finds the killer, and at the same time learns about family ties and loyalty and the universal desire to avoid blame."

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Snow Falling on Cedars

By David Guterson

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"San Piedro Island, north of Puget Sound, is a place so isolated that no one who lives there can afford to make enemies. But in 1954 a local fisherman is found suspiciously drowned, and a Japanese American named Kabuo Miyamoto is charged with his murder. In the course of the ensuing trial, it becomes clear that what is at stake is more than a man's guilt. For on San Pedro, memory grows as thickly as cedar trees and the fields of ripe strawberries--memories of a charmed love affair between a white boy and the Japanese girl who grew up to become Kabuo's wife; memories of land desired, paid for, and lost. Above all, San Piedro is haunted by the memory of what happened to its Japanese residents during World War II, when an entire community was sent into exile while its neighbors watched."

Also available on audio.

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