Title: Under the Silk Hibiscus
Author: Alice J. Wisler
Major Themes: Japanese-Americans, World War II
Synopsis: When his family is placed in a concentration camp during World War II simply because they are Japanese, Nathan must hold the family together.
One facet of American history that I have not come across much about is the internment of Japanese Americans in concentration camps during World War II. In fact, I think I only ever read one book on the topic. Under the Silk Hibiscus does a good job of showing what life was like for people in one of those camps.
Nathan Mori and his family had lived peacefully in San Jose for many years—but as soon as the United States entered World War II, they, like many other Japanese families, were relocated to Wyoming, where they had to live in a camp below Heart Mountain. Papa had been taken to a different location, and Mama was pregnant and not doing well. Older brother Ken was involved with a gang, and younger brother Tom was crippled from polio. Nathan had to help his Aunt Kasuko hold the family together and take care of everything, especially protecting the family heirloom, an antique gold watch.
Things had been bad enough in the camp at first, but later it got worse and worse—Mama died, the watch was stolen, and Nathan found himself in jail after stealing it back. The only bright spot in the camp was Lucy’s singing. Nathan longed more than anything to be with Lucy, but he knew she was Ken’s girl. Would it be possible to hold on to his faith in God through all the trials he was forced to endure?
I enjoyed this story. I did not, of course, appreciate the way the Japanese were treated—no one should ever be mistreated, especially not because of their race. I did like the way Nathan responded to the mistreatment. It was very difficult, but he learned not to return evil for good, and eventually was able to forgive the worst of his tormentors. It was quite interesting to see how the family rebuilt their life after the war.
Note: I received a free copy of this book, and chose to review it.
Reading Independently—Ages 15 and Above, Adults