Monday, June 27, 2011
Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata
Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata
Maybe it’s just me, but I’m having trouble writing reviews that do justice to the books I’ve read recently. Take this book for example…Weedflower. I’ve been reading and re-reading, typing and re-typing to figure out how to explain this book. Somehow, nothing I wrote did this book justice. Or it just read like a rambled mash of nonlinear thoughts. So where to begin?
The prose was nice – it was simple and very straight forward. Not overly descriptive, but sometimes the writing had a subtle vividness that reminded me of the Mohave Desert the characters were located to. The story was through the eyes of a young flower girl, Sumiko. She was innocent and naïve enough to present some of the frustrations and misunderstandings in a straight forward manner. Sumiko and her younger brother Tak-Tak lived with her relatives since the death of their parents. They lived on a small flower farm where Sumiko one day dreamt of owning a flower shop and arranged flowers.
Already facing discrimination at the beginning of the book, Sumiko and her family experienced the fear and prejudice once the United States entered World War II and forced relocation. The author was very good at making sure Sumiko acted like a child her age. Her views of things were more often neutral and acted as a mere observation. Even so, Sumiko acted like a young girl her age, she makes mistakes even when she knows they’re wrong or believed a lot of things in ways of a person her age. Even at the end when we saw Sumiko mature, it was still in a way that stayed true to her age and not a miniature adult.
There were some information dumping, but the author included the amount of information rather well and I did not feel like I was reading a history book, or a moral lecture. The core story was still focused on Sumiko slowly growing into herself and learning the meaning of friendship, whether it be growing a small garden with an older neighbor, or jumping in a fight to protect her American Indian friend. The blunt theme was the problems with racism, xenophobia and war crossed all boundaries. The book was good at touching upon issues that was not as thoroughly discussed when I studied history.
Basic history: after Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Government implemented the interment of anyone of Japanese blood onto make-shift camps in various areas in the U.S. supposedly for the people’s protection. FYI, the same happened to many German and Italian families. The conditions in each camp varied depending on the location, but some situations were universal. A lot of people had to sell all their belongings for mere pennies of their worth. People lost their jobs and livelihood, their homes and land and lost heirlooms and irreplaceable pictures. First barred from joining the military before being recruited to serve on the European front as to make sure these American soldiers were spies or defect (whereas German/Italian people that joined were sent to the Asian front). Even afterward, people returned home to find everything stolen, vandalized or even other people living in their homes.
There were some nice people of course. In one real life example, a good friend of a Japanese American family kept his promise to protect their home and their possessions safe until they returned. To keep his promise, this friend had brought out a shotgun (and I believed fired a few “warning shots”) to dissuade his own relatives from breaking into the closed up home and stealing everything. Oh the things I learned. The author also had a nice extra historical information that I always loved in books.
There were aspects of all the above written into the book all very well interwoven. The author was really good as incorporating diversity without being preachy. I could go on about injustice and war, but even though this book showed a lot of those issues, what was more interesting for me was the very vivid picture of life inside the camps. The image of how many people tried to make the best of a terrible situation, while others really degraded. We really don’t hear about how hard life was, how children reacted to the situation or the lack of teachers or jobs.
Another interesting part of the book was the point of views from American Indians that were affected. Through the eyes of Frank, conditions of American Indians were also touched up as well as how . He actually does not show up until halfway through the book, but it was great to see their interactions. They truly become friends despite, or because of their differences. I also loved how Frank was the one that nicknamed her Weedflower even though Sumiko did not like it. I’d like to think they grow up and find each other again. Wooo, that would make an awesome romance novel.
Conclusion: My review sucked, but I really liked the book. Please read. >_<