The author of the classic When the Emperor Was Divine, has produced a second masterpiece: a dense, difficult, short work that follows a group of women brought from Japan to San Francisco in the early 1900s as mail-order brides. I say it is difficult because the style is first-person plural and the narrative voices travel from the boat, with hopes for good husbands and happy futures, to the arrival (and harsh realities), to toil as migrant workers and house cleaners, the overwhelming struggle to learn a new language and culture, giving birth and raising children who reject their parents and heritage, and finally…the arrival of war and the absolute heartbreak of the internment camps.
There is so much here in this short work that book-discussion groups will be able to use it for many sessions. One Reads programs will find a wealth of issues common to any ethnic minority living in their community. And for the casual reader – you will be drawn in, as I was, to a disturbing examination of identity and loyalty and what it means to be an American. All this in 144 pages.