53 pages 1 hour read

Cynthia Kadohata


Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2004

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Historical Context: Japanese Americans in the US Following World War II

The Takeshima family represents a rarity in the US. The young family attempts to set down roots, find financial security, and achieve homeownership at a particularly difficult, transitional time: There are fewer than 200,000 people of Japanese ancestry on the US mainland in 1956, when the narrative begins. Father and Mother, Japanese Americans immigrants with American citizenship, met in rural Iowa, where there was apparently a small immigrant community. The couple keeps strong connections to their heritage, speaking Japanese even though English becomes their primary language in the home. Father reminisces about his unfinished education in Japan, while Mother wishes she could send her daughters to Japan for lessons in the proper behavior of women.

Though Kadohata makes no direct mention of it, Japanese Americans only left wartime internment—the US forced Americans of Japanese origin into camps during WWII out of racist fear that they would betray the country—around 10 years before the novel begins. Although Mother and Father would have been in their late teens or early 20s during the 1942-46 internment, the narrative’s only mention of WWII is Katie’s reference to Uncle being a hero who saved another soldier’s life. Japanese American soldiers fought in the European theater, generally with great distinction.