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Stubborn Twig: Three Generations in the Life of a Japanese American Family

3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  591 ratings  ·  181 reviews
In 1903, Masuo Yasui came to America and eventually became a successful orchardist and father of eight children. But the "relocation" of Japanese Americans during World War II caused Yasui to take his own life. The Yasui family opened its records and memories to Lauren Kessler, who writes a social history that rings with truth and drama. Photographs.
Paperback, 398 pages
Published March 1st 2006 by Oregon Historical Society Press (first published 1993)
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Best Books About Japan
138th out of 252 books — 151 voters
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Books about Japanese-American Internment
11th out of 40 books — 4 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,000)
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Jim
I attended Concordia Academy in Portland Oregon, at that time a Lutheran boarding highschool. A roommate from Idaho said he could remember begging for berries along the barbed wire fence of an internment camp there. He would have been born in 1935 or 1936 and have been seven at the time of the internment. I, of course, said, "Internment, what internment?" In my senior year, we played Hood River Highscool in football. I believe it was the only game we won that year. I would like to go back over t ...more
Stephanie
Jun 24, 2009 Stephanie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone over 10 year old
Recommended to Stephanie by: Oregon Library System
This book was a fascinating read. A true look into the lives of those effected by the evacuation order during WW II. The book is painfully beautiful. The narrative keeps you coming back for more. I found myself alternately intrigued, angered, disheartened, heartened, pleased, and thoughtful about how the family's life unfolded. Sprinkle in a bit of righteous indignation and you've got the feel of the book. It leaves you questioning... How would you have reacted if you were there then? If you wer ...more
Karin Mckercher
Stubborn Twig, the Oregon Reads selection by the Oregon Library Association (2009), is about three generations of Japanese families that begins with the first generation's (issei) immigration. What I found most disturbing about the history as told through the book is not the atrocious racism with which the Japanese immigrants were treated (which is, undoubtedly, disturbing), but that the same arguments justifying racism continue to repeat themselves today. They're just applied to a different eth ...more
K. Bird
Stubborn Twig should be required reading for every high school in the United States.

Like many Americans, I knew virtually nothing about the unconstitutional internment, property seizure, and harrassment of ethnic Japanese before, during and after World War II in the United States.

This book takes a prominent Hood River, Oregon family and follows their struggles as Issei (first generation immigrants) carve out a home in the small town amongst judicial and societal bigotry, loose everything, and th
...more
Faith
I found this book worthwhile because I hadn't known many details about the treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II. For example, I had always pictured the internment "camps" as reasonably nice places where families at least stayed together.

As part of a community reading program celebrating Oregon's 150th birthday, everyone in Oregon is being invited to read this book this year. If you already know your WWII history, you're going to have to care A LOT about the one family featured, be
...more
Leslie
I really thought about giving this a 1 star. But I do appreciate the Author's intense research. But it was over detailed, long, slow, and quite boring at times. I enjoyed the story of the family and I enjoy learning about WWII.

The whole atmosphere of this book was very negative. Which I think contradicts the attitudes of the Japanese American people, I think they tried to remain positive and hopeful through out their ordeal. I don't agree with how they were treated, but the book was not only a o
...more
Kate
Nov 20, 2010 Kate rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kate by: Oregon sesquicentennial - library
Interesting, long, somewhat boring about the Japanese internment camps during WW2. I feel bad for these people being subject to racism, yet hindsight is always 20/20.

I gave this book a 2 because I thought it was a poor choice for the Oregon sesquicentennial celebration. Why pick a book that criticizes Oregonians racism to celebrate Oregon? So that made me not enjoy it so much. I guess I shouldn't blame the book for that, so maybe it deserves a 2.5.
Cathy
This is a very well researched book about a Japanese American family from Hood River, Oregon, including the WWII period of nternment camps. I found it remarkable frank. It's a biography, not an autobiography, but the author, Lauren Kessler, manages to tell us a great deal particularly about how the third generation that grew up after the war, dealt with being Japanese American.

This was far from a typical immigrant story. The father, Masuo Yasui, arrived in the US in 1903 full of ambition. Althou
...more
Kasey
Aug 12, 2009 Kasey rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: yuck! no one
Recommended to Kasey by: Sue
Shelves: book-club-books
I give up. Made it to the second section and I just can't take it anymore. Life is too short to read a bad book. I hope the governor can forgive my lack of Oregon-ness.
David
I appreciated this book for its depth into the life of Masuo Yasui, who I feel I know intimately now, and his descendants. Unfortunately, at various times, the writing plodded along with, what seemed to me, almost too much flatly-spoken cataloging of information, presented in a somewhat lifeless manner. Kessler seems okay with letting her researched details tell the whole story, which is fine, but I wanted her language to have more zest at times, to enjoy itself more. Oh well. The payoff, howeve ...more
Robin Nicholas
The family and story itself were facinating, but the author put every, last, detail into this very, dry, book.

This is the story of a 16 year old Japanese man who come to America in 1907 to pursue a better life. At that time there was a huge influx of Japanese men coming here to earn money to send back home. They intended to stay a few years and then return home. Masua Yasui on the other hand wanted to make this his permanent home. He learned to read and write English, became a Christian and ful
...more
Alexis
This book is absolutely phenomenal. It addresses a very dark chapter in our nation's history, the magnitude of which I have failed to appreciate, until now. Some readers will not appreciate the first few chapters which read more like a documentary than a personal history. These first few chapters establish a fundamentally important historical context, unfortunately getting through them is a bit tedious. But once Kessler gets into the details of the Yasui family's experience and treatment at the ...more
Megan
I must be honest and say this book took me awhile to get through, not out of interest, but as a historical non fiction it is subject me nodding off while reading it because I only have time to read at night, in bed. It brings me back to my college days where I would be reading dry history and literature texts far into the wee hours of the morning.

Please don't let my lack of attentiveness take away from this book and the important story it tells of a American Japanese family living in the Pacific
...more
Karen
Heart-wrenching, superbly written account of the racial-bigotry, lying, hatred, and jealousy of white America, with a focus on Hood River, OR, in the years before the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor, that was behind the real reason (government studies reported the American Japanese were not a threat) for Roosevelt’s and government’s internment of the American Japanese. Using a true family with family interviews with good historical research this is a detailed accounting of the impact on each i ...more
Tracy
I do have some quibbles with how the author took liberties with claiming to know what people's motivations were, but overall this was a very informative and well written book. I didn't grow up in Oregon, so I didn't know a lot about this part of its history (although I'm pretty sure people who grew up in Oregon would find it an eye-opening book too). It traces the history of the Yasui family, from Matsuo's immigration to the United States from Japan, through his work to carve out a living on the ...more
Rachelfm
All Americans should read this book. I've rarely been so engaged in a non-fiction work as I was in Stubborn Twig. First of all, it's a compelling story of a remarkable, "only-in-America" kind of Japanese immigrant, Masuo Yasui. Yasui immigrated to Portland, worked on the railroad in the intermountain west, learned English, converted to Christianity, and settled in Hood River to be an extremely successful entrepreneur and orchardist.

While his story is singular, the author is careful not to go in
...more
Wendy
I read a very similar book several years ago at my dad's behest. Otherwise this one might have impressed me even more. But while I can read dozens of versions of growing-up-Jewish-in-WWII-Europe, these two stories were too much alike: a family history of a Japanese American family in Hood River, detailing generation by generation. The specific story of this family is interesting in itself, which its business triumphs and thread of suicide running through, but the larger picture, down to the Amer ...more
Tim
My motivation for reading this book was to get a sense of the extent of resistance by American citizens when Japanese residents and Japanese citizens were interned during WW II. But the story of three generations of one family, the Yasuis, was compelling on its own. Gaining a window into the motivation, culture, expectations and dreams of the Issei, Nisei, and Sansei (first, second, and third generations) was breathtaking, and essential to understand this family's encounter with the promise and ...more
Carol
Kessler does a wonderful job relating the lives of three generations of Japanese in the United States. She relates the familial loyalties of the Yasui family brilliantly. The majority of the story is based in Hood River, Oregon and intertwines with Portland, Oregon where I lived during the post World War II years that the Yasui family attempted to get prison sentences overturned. As much as I thought I would react angrily to our treatment of this family that had total allegiance to the country t ...more
dora
forwarded to me by an oregonian, this book is part of the states Oregon Reads Program and a must read for their 150th year of statehood. not being an oregonian myself i read it anyway!
overall this book opens you up to the stupidity and racism of america and its citizens. i would like to say "back then" in that previous statement but it also makes you aware of how this sort of thing is still going on! the japanese people internalized their reactions to the forced internments then only to realize
...more
Amy Tanikawa
As a 3rd generation Oregonian, I love to read about the "REAL" history of Oregon. Lauren Kessler presented this story so thoroughly and heart felt, I was caught from the first chapter. My children are Gosei, 5th generation Japanese American. Their grandfather Tanikawa and his family were sent to an internment camp when he was in late middle school. As in this book, his grandfather arrived in Seattle around 1901. His father fought in World War I. They had a productive life in this country prior t ...more
Joey Lenti
Lauren Kessler has done an extraordinary job of assembling a vast amount of family narrative and historical-cultural contextual information into an immensely satisfying story about an intergenerational American immigrant experience. The Yasui family's willingness to share their story with such candor, and Kessler's keen research, editing, interviewing, and storytelling, have yielded a masterpiece of nonfiction American historical literature.

I read this as an audiobook, though I also enjoyed look
...more
itpdx
This is the story of three generations of a Japanese American family that settled in Oregon. Through the xenophobia of the early 20th century, internship during World War II, the family survives, endures and thrives (sometimes financially, sometimes politically). The author, Lauren Kessler, has done a tremendous amount of research with the help of family members. And she has written a book that captures your imagination and lets you see the struggles of individuals and each generation.

I have li
...more
Ellie
Jun 02, 2009 Ellie rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Americans
Recommended to Ellie by: Lynne
A well-researched history of a Japanese American family that settled in Hood River, Oregon at the turn of the century and the struggle they endured to carve out a life for themselves in a racist political and social climate. Hard to read at times, Stubborn Twig describes how Mat (Masua) Yansui worked hard to establish himself as a business owner and orchardist, start and raise a family of well-educated children, and become a respected member of the community and how quickly his world came crashi ...more
Jostalady
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Madelle
This is one of the books that the Library Association of Oregon has chosen for Oregon's 150th birthday as an all state read. I am just starting and it looks good.
I finished this book on my recent trip to Kenya and left it there for some other Oregon missionaries to read. This story of Japanese Americans in Oregon reads like a history book. There wer many places mentioned by the author, a professor at the University of Oregon, that are familiar to me. The story of Japanese americans who immiagrat
...more
Claudia Lee
I half listened to and half read Stubborn Twig. Kudos to Corvallis Public Library for making this available as a downloadable book. To say I enjoyed this book wouldn't be completely accurate. Seeing the impact on the generations of this family of war-time security decisions that focused on ethnicity is very sobering. This family history has caused me to ask questions: When is it appropriate to make national security decisions that impact select ethnic groups?; If such decisions are made is there ...more
Jakki
Nov 19, 2011 Jakki rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Pearl Harbor history buffs and those interested in Japanese internment
Recommended to Jakki by: Judy Jernberg
Shelves: asian
I continue to be amazed and embarrassed over some of the horrible things our US government has done to people of color. This is another sad part in our history of not accepting someone because of their race. It didn't help that the political leadership was lousy at the time and after Pearl Harbor war hysteria was paramount.

However, what an amazing story of a family that in spite of the undeserved treatment, they continued to rise above it and live their lives with dignity and grace - a testamen
...more
Genevieve
Through my education classes I have done quite a bit of reading about how different cultural groups have endured discrimination in the United States. It always surprises and rankles me the speed with which people (sometimes with government support) can turn on each other out of fear and ignorance, and even more disgusting, to take advantage of this for personal gain. Having said that, this book is interesting in that it follows one Japanese-American family through several generations of "America ...more
Katherine
Nov 20, 2010 Katherine rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Katherine by: WAC Book Club
I don't know if I would have picked this up if i hadn't heard about it in a book club. But really happy that I did - I don't know personally a lot about Japanese American history and I heard about the internments but never had a good detailed perspective on it, which this book enlightened me with. It was fascinating to watch the generational journey of this family and see the power of one man's decision to leave his country and the seeds he plants in the other country.

The internments really rem
...more
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Lauren Kessler is the author of six works of narrative nonfiction. She is also the author of Pacific Northwest Book Award winner Dancing with Rose (published in paperback as Finding Life in the Land of Alzheimers), Washington Post bestseller Clever Girl and Los Angeles Times bestseller The Happy Bottom Riding Club which David Letterman, in fierce competition with Oprah, chose as the first (and onl ...more
More about Lauren Kessler...
Dancing with Rose: Finding Life in the Land of Alzheimer's Counterclockwise: One Midlife Woman's Quest to Turn Back the Hands of Time The Happy Bottom Riding Club: The Life and Times of Pancho Barnes My Teenage Werewolf: A Mother, a Daughter, a Journey Through the Thicket of Adolescence Clever Girl: Elizabeth Bentley, the Spy Who Ushered in the McCarthy Era

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