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Color of the Sea Paperback – November 6, 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (November 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307386074
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307386076
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #990,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Hamamura's broad debut follows a Japanese language teacher raised in Hawaii as he finds love and as the U.S. and Japan drift into war. Isamu "Sam" Hamada, born in Hawaii to Japanese parents and raised in Japan until age nine, leaves Japan in 1930 to be reared by a Japanese-American family in Hawaii, before moving to California. A constant for the intense but likable Sam is his dedication to the martial arts, a passion shared by Yanagi Keiko, the American-born young woman he meets in California. Their love is haunted by an earlier liaison of Sam's, but Keiko and Sam press on until she leaves for Japan in the spring of 1940 to finish high school and, it is planned, marry a man chosen by her grandparents. As the war begins, Keiko's family is deported from Japan to the U.S., while Sam is recruited by the U.S. military intelligence, and a slim second chance comes into view. The romantic material is solid if idealized; various martial arts chapters have a clumsily formal quality; Sam's final military adventure at Okinawa strains credibility; an extended passage on the bombing of Hiroshima is motivated only by placing Sam's parents and siblings there. But Hamamura has a real command of the relevant history and packs a great deal of it into several dense but lucid and accessible story lines. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Born in Hawaii to Japanese parents, Sam Hamada is not destined to follow in his father's footsteps as a mere plantation worker. Education, both traditional schooling and martial arts training, is Sam's ticket out, leading him to college on the mainland, where he meets Keiko, the fetching, willful daughter of Japanese immigrants. Yet while Keiko and Sam are falling in love, their adopted and native lands are preparing for war. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Keiko's family is incarcerated in internment camps while Sam is drafted into the U.S. Army, where he unwittingly plays a key role in the bombing of Hiroshima, still home to his mother and siblings. To be a Japanese American in mid-twentieth-century America was to be perceived as neither Japanese nor American, and it is this conflict that informs Hamamura's ambitious coming-of-age novel, in which the fate of two people amid the devastation of war reveals how the promises of honor and the security of love can rescue souls and restore faith. Carol Haggas
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

What a beautiful story written with such creative and colorful descriptions.
Book Reader
The author's use of words is compelling but he too often uses them to make scenes that are very contrived and just corny.
Deborah Collins
This book definitely rates as one of best books I have ever read and one of my top 5 favorites.
Mary Louise White

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Scott Masterton VINE VOICE on March 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Color of the Sea" By John Hamamura is a tough book to find, but well worth every moment spent trying.

Author John Hamamura is a Japanese American born in Minnesota at the end of World War II to Japanese parents. He Currently lives in California so when it comes to the experience of Japanese immigrants during WWII Hamamura knows deeply of that which he writes.

The story begins pre-WWII and follows the life of 9 year old Isamu (Sam). Sam leaves his mother and siblings in Japan to join his father in Hawaii. From a proud Samurai family, Sam's father has become an alcoholic, blue collar laborer working in the cane fields of Hawaii. His dream for Isamu (like all parents) is that the boy transcend the his fathers station by being educated in English and ultimately to study at an American College. This story is deeply spiritual and the writing is superb. Hamamura understands the concept of "less is more" when it comes to writing. This short book is filled with images that run the whole gamut of the human experience; he contrasts images of love, sex, spiritual martial arts and the beauty of nature with the heart rending experiences of war, death, despair and the most vivid description of the ravages of Hiroshima that I have ever read. From an historical standpoint John Hamamura really gives readers a feel for what it must be like to live in a country and be a part of it, but at the same time be made to feel so "other". After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans became pariah with families locked in campls even though many served valiantly in the war (these events are detailed in the book).

If you could read only one book this year read Color of the Sea. This is an important book.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mary Louise White on January 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is the first time I have ever written a review on Amazon, but this book is very worthy of my time to share thoughts on this excellent book. This book was highly recommended to me by a friend who told me that it is John Hamamura's first book. I hope he writes more! He writes with creatively colorful descriptions, with an eloquent style, and weaves a beautiful message within the rich story set in an historically challenging time for Japanese Americans. His descriptions of the personal and spiritual development of Isamu ("Sam"), the main character struck a deep chord and resonated with me, even though my life experiences are vastly different from his. The explanations of "mu" and "ki" in Japanese cultural and spiritual experience were especially profound to me. This book definitely rates as one of best books I have ever read and one of my top 5 favorites. Read it. It is excellent.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By John Matlock on April 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a powerful book about a couple of people caught in one of the more painful moments of American history when the treatment of Japanese descended peoples in the United States was a travesty of the things America is supposed to stand for.

The author says that he spent years working on the book, but that the story has been working on him since he was born. He was born in 1945 in an US Army hospital in Minnesota. His father was a Japanese language instructor. His mothers family lived in a concentration camp in southern Arkansas. His father's mother and siblings lived in Hiroshima. This is already the basis of a story. One where the telling of a tale with these almost makes it seem contrived and artificial.

The story is told from the standpoint of a Japanese-American man drafted into the US Army and a Japanese-American girl who returned to Japan just before the war. It is a tale well told against a well researched time in history. Indeed it places a personal aspect on the history of that time.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on November 14, 2007
Format: Paperback
Reviewed by Beth Cummings

"What color is the sea?" Early in this fascinating novel, Fujiwara-san, an elderly man who agrees to teach the young protagonist, Isamu (Sam) the ways of a samurai, asks Sam this question. He has been quizzing Sam about the colors of everything he sees for about six months, but finally Sam gives the answer the old man seeks..."I see light blue and dark blue and gray and green and black and white and yellow and orange. I see green. Gray-green, dull green, bright green, yellow-green, blue-green..."

Finally he asks Sam the color of the shadow of a fish that jumped. When Sam answers that the shadow had no color but just darkened the colors it passed, over the old man is delighted. This is the first test of many as Sam learns the way of a samurai - the ancient Japanese tradition of martial arts combined with philosophy and honor.

John Hamamura received the 2007 Alex Award for this coming-of-age story of a Japanese-American boy, born in Hawaii, schooled first in Japan then in Hawaii, and finally in California. Isamu reads and writes in both English and Japanese and he understands the both cultures. These are the years leading up to WWII. When the war begins, Sam enlists to fight the Germans, but unlike many of his nisei (Japanese born in the United States) friends, he is not sent to the European front. Instead he becomes a teacher of Japanese culture and translator for the Army that will eventually be fighting his native country. His mother, brother and sister still live in Japan. He lives a life that is torn between two honorable courses of action - serve one's country (the U.S.) or honor one's family living in the enemy land.
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