53 pages 1 hour read

Cynthia Kadohata


Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2004

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Prejudice Against Japanese Americans

Prejudice against individuals of Asian descent, and particularly those of Japanese descent, was prevalent in the US long before the beginning of Kira-Kira. For instance, the derogatory term “yellow peril” came into use in 1895 when Japan defeated China in the first Sino-Japanese War. Likewise, certain legal actions that took place in the decades prior to the 1950s clearly reveal the historical distrust white Americans felt toward the Japanese. In 1907, an informal arrangement between Japan and the US prevented additional Japanese laborers from coming to the US. A federal law banning new immigrants from Japan formalized this in 1924. In 1913, a California law prohibited people of Japanese extraction from purchasing land; this was a direct response to the success Japanese American farmers experienced in California agriculture. WWII exacerbated the distrust of white Americans toward Japanese Americans. It is important to note that the prejudice experienced by people of Japanese descent did not take into consideration whether they were US citizens. In the novel, though the Takeshimas are American by birth, prejudiced whites often regard them as foreign nationals.

In keeping with the fact that her narrator is the very young Katie, who only gradually realizes that some white people treat her family with bias, Kadohata makes little mention of any prejudicial treatment Takeshimas experienced in Iowa apart from Katie’s observation that, “Our parents owned a small Oriental foods grocery store.