Unfortunately, I find the need to break out my favorite Animal Farm quote of all time to pay homage to the special brand of bigotry currently present in Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina and Georgia as well as the total craziness one can find in Oklahoma and Florida. Use the links to find out more about how these states are defying a U.S. Department of Defense directive or, if you want an insightful commentary on the entire situation, check out Rachel Maddow’s November 20, 2013 episode.
The volume Dust of Eden by Mariko Nagai is the second book on the Japanese Internment I have read this year that targets young readers. I find this a very good development for the World War II fiction offerings for the grammar school and junior high set. Hopefully, a new generation will read this books and be informed about a dark spot in American history.
Dust of Eden has a sentence structure and format that reminds me of the Newbery medal winner Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. I read that book in elementary, and it was one of the first volumes where I was able to recognize how broken or abrupt prose and formatting add to the mood of a story when descriptive elements fail or can only go so far. I think young readers of this book will also pick up on the same sense of being on the outside looking in — like the main characters of Mina and her old brother.
While these two are deeply involved in their daily life and internally protesting the indignities and the sense of not belonging to, or rather, being claimed by either the Japanese or American side, the hostility and atmosphere seem to detach us from the immediacy of their pain and, instead, leave us looking in from the outside wondering why bad things happen to good people. This feeling should make the book resonate with younger readers on a deeper level than an immediate scene of kicking and screaming. The long, steady protest wins out.
The structure of the book makes all of this happen. The same words pieced together in a more traditional way would have told the same story in a more dramatized way. The silent dignity, searching, and sorrow of this book works well and seems more fitting.
I thought that The Keeper of Secrets by Julie Thomas would probably be a journey back-and-forth through time tracing the history of the famous violin Simon Horowitz loved so much, but it actually started out (minus the prologue) with several dozen pages set in the present with Simon’s grandson Daniel taking the helm. I enjoyed Daniel’s storyline but began to grew weary of it since I knew the book was supposed to cover a much larger historical period.
Just when I was about to reach my breaking point for orchestral back-and-forth, we switched screens to the World War II story I wanted to read.
In terms of Holocaust and World War II fiction in general, I would call this book about average. The book derives much of its emotion from the general atmosphere of the Holocaust instead of drawing on our emotions through the characters….not that Simon and Daniel can’t pull at your heart strings like they finger a violin….it just isn’t as palpable as it can be in other books.
I would give this volume a solid B+ if it were in school. Good but could be better.