Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Book Review Club - Weedflower

by Cynthia Kadohata
ISBN: 978-1-4169-7566-3

It has been a whole month since my last post. I blame it all on my MFA program. I can't quite seem to eek enough time out of the 24 hours allotted to us mortals per day. Just two more hours! Just two. I could get it all done...I think.

Nevertheless, I've taken a break in frantic learning for Barrie Summy's amazing Book Review Club. I wouldn't miss this for anything, not even sleep. So here goes, Weedflower.

One of the most stirring Supreme Court cases I read while teaching constitutional limitations was the 1941, U.S. vs. Korematsu, which posed that the U.S. government had violated the civil rights of Japanese-Americans who were forced by the government into internment camps during World War II. The Supreme Court ruled that while the U.S. government had violated its citizens’ rights, the state of war the country found itself in outweighed those rights and made the internment legal.

This background knowledge and prior, personal conflict with the legal aspects of internment made Kadohata’s novel all the more moving for me. It was rewarding, albeit hard, to step into the emotions of what internment must have felt like. Through the eyes of eleven year old Sumiko, Kadohata does an amazing job of showing what it was like for Japanese Americans during this excruciating time. Fear, exhaustion, broken families, paranoia, unusual friendships, the slow rebuilding of a productive, hard-working immigrant population, the uncertainty of starting all over again, bravery, loyalty, love of family and land. It's all in here, deftly woven together in a luminous tale.

The craft aspect of this book I enjoyed the most was that I was not sure where or how the story would end. Would Sumiko and her family ever get out of the camp? Would the war last ten years? By staying very close to Sumiko and her feelings in a Solzhenitsyn, A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich kind-of-way, Kadohata powerfully conveys the endlessness of internment and uncertainty of the Japanese plight during WW II.I was on the edge of my seat to the very end. And when the novel was over, I was left thinking long and hard about why it ended the way it did. The ending begs for discussion.

This is a book to learn from. To enjoy stylistically. To get lost in. I really loved it.

For other great reads, hop over to our fearless leader's website and meander through the rich panoply of choices. That pile next to my night stand grows exponentially each month. I hope yours does too!


Sarah Laurence said...

Welcome back! I know the feeling – I did not get much sleep last night. The Japanese-American internment is a shameful chapter in our national history. What an interesting and important topic for young readers. Great review!

Bee said...

I didn't know anything about this "chapter" of American history until I was an adult. I love the way that fiction can resurrect the past. You always highlight interesting books, Stacy.

Sorry about the sleeplessness!

Barrie said...

Stacy, I feel honored that you're taking a break from your MFA program to write a review for us! And I'm looking forward to hearing all about the program when I see you in a couple of weeks! I'd really like to read this book and I have a friend I'll get it for as well. Her parents were interred (in Canada), but I think Weedflower will speak to her all the same. Thank you!

Keri Mikulski said...

Keep learning and enjoy the MFA program!! :)

Sounds like a great book. :) Thanks for the great review.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Hm, interesting. I've read other books about this topic, but the comment you make about this book's ending intrigues me.

kaye said...

I enjoy reading these types of books. I always think of things like this happening in other less developed countries. But we had a Japanese camp right here in our area. My dad wrote about it in his personal history. I hope someday we rise above this type of behaviour. Nice review, my review is here

Christina Farley said...

I read Kira Kira and enjoyed that.

Good review on this one.

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