Timothy Hallinan's Reviews > Farewell to Manzanar

Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston
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Aug 03, 2011

it was amazing
Read in July, 2011

Well, here's a heartbreaker that filled me with simultaneous shame and pride at being human. Shame that I'm a member of the species that snatched these innocent people out of their homes and daily lives, shattered some of their families permanently, and forced them behind fences at the ass end of nowhere. Pride that I'm a member of the species that took this with such dignity, that created a community behind the wire, used took the only things they had -- rocks and sand -- to build rock-and-sand gardens. That endured the cold and the heat, that taught their daughters to dance and flip batons and excel in school, and their sons to play in country-western bands (even the top hit of the day, "Don't Fence Me In") and -- eventually -- to serve in the most-decorated outfit in the second world war.

This is inspirational in a completely practical way: these people endured, and then they endured some more. Yes, some of them drank too much and allowed bitterness to devour them, but others were always there, trying to help. I wept a few times, especially at the relationship between the narrator's parents, but ultimately, when I closed the book I was overcome with the same admiration I feel for the way the Japanese have risen to the most recent tragedies on their surprisingly small island.

I edited an e-book book of stories SHAKEN: Stories for Japan to raise money for Japanese disaster relief, and I was brought to this book by Wendy Hornsby's masterful contribution to SHAKEN, "The Emperor's Truck," about a young woman helping her family regain their feet after release from Manzanar. I recommend you buy both books -- this one because it's so beautiful and SHAKEN because it's very, very good, and every penny of the price goes to the 2011 Japan Relief Fund.
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