“We undressed and then had to walk what seemed like an endless distance to the shower, naked. Down a long hallway. Many women tried holding a washcloth over—you know, to cover themselves, and try to hold on to some sense of dignity.” ~ Silver Like Dust
Other than psychology, pathology and philosophy of religion journals, I don’t read much lengthy nonfiction these days. I picked up Silver Like Dust: One Family’s Story of Japanese Internment because my nephew is reading the memoir for an English class. I wanted to be able to discuss the book with my boy.
I didn’t think it would be an enjoyable story. I mean, it is about innocent people imprisoned by a group that managed to turn fear into hatred. But my reading prognosis was wrong. It remains true that Silver Like Dust shows the United States at one of its not so finest moments, but the way the story is structured, the tone of the tale and the relationship between a granddaughter and a grandmother made the reading informative and pleasurable.
Kimi was always curious about her family’s—especially her grandmother’s—experience at Heart Mountain, a Japanese internment camp during WWII. However, the culture Kimi was born into places a lot of importance on privacy. Kimi’s grandmother is more reserved than most. While Kimi is in college, she decides to bite the mochi—a Japanese dessert Kimi doesn’t particularly care for—and ask her grandmother about her life as a Japanese American in the early 1940s.
The exchange between Kimi and her grandmother starts at a shy pace. They soon get more comfortable and step into the heart of the story… Kimi and the reader learn information as detailed as what people packed before going into the camps, and as complex as the reason why a boy was sent across the ocean as punishment for throwing a rock at a statue.
Silver Like Dust offers a taste of history, American Japanese culture, family dynamics, and for those who need thrills in their tales, let me say that there is a snake, an alligator, and perhaps a bear… Best of all, there is love, growth, healing and tradition.
Below, drawn by me and not the five-year-old you are probably imagining, is my August entry for the Artful Readers Club. Yes, I was late and wild. About the drawing… Kimi and her grandma consumed quite a bit of tea, so the pot felt right. Then I wanted to create something to symbolize their relationship—the grandmother wilting towards the winter and the granddaughter looking up to the one who holds her roots.
|“Granddaughter and grandmother held hands walking uphill.” ~ AlmaMia Cienfuegos|