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Silver Like Dust: One Family's Story of Japanese Internment [Kindle Edition]

Kimi Cunningham Grant
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The poignant story of a Japanese-American woman’s journey through one of the most shameful chapters in American history
Kimi’s Obaachan, her grandmother, had always been a silent presence throughout her youth. Sipping tea by the fire, preparing sushi for the family, or indulgently listening to Ojichan’s (grandfather’s) stories for the thousandth time, Obaachan was a missing link to Kimi’s Japanese heritage, something she had had a mixed relationship with all her life. Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, all Kimi ever wanted to do was fit in, spurning traditional Japanese culture and her grandfather’s attempts to teach her the language.

But there was one part of Obaachan’s life that fascinated and haunted Kimi—her gentle yet proud Obaachan was once
a prisoner, along with 112,000 Japanese Americans, for more than five years of her life. Obaachan never spoke of those years, and Kimi’s own mother only spoke of it in whispers. It was a source of haji, or shame. But what really happened to Obaachan, then a young woman, and the thousands of other men, women, and children like her?

From the turmoil, racism, and paranoia that sprang up after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, to the terrifying train ride to Heart Mountain, Silver Like Dust captures a vital chapter of the Japanese-American experience through the journey of one remarkable woman and the enduring bonds of family.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, wanting to fit in, Grant felt far removed from her Japanese heritage, including the internment of her grandparents during WWII. She’d visited Obaachan (which means “grandmother”) in Florida since childhood but did not feel close to her. Later, with a new, burning curiosity about her family and that chapter of their history, Grant was compelled to visit as an adult and draw her reluctant grandmother into remembrances of the past. Slowly, Obaachan recalls the family’s immigrant history, the segregation and limited prospects even before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and the internment of Japanese in the U.S. that followed. Two of Obaachan’s brothers served in the military while the family was interned in the camp, where she lost her mother and met her future husband. Grant offers a portrait of the stoicism and patriotism of her family as well as differences in generations, as the stories evoke her own feelings of rage. But throughout is a portrait of a courageous woman who endured hardship and later established a delicate balance of trust with her granddaughter that allowed her to finally tell the family’s story. --Vanessa Bush


“A remarkable book about life in a Japanese internment camp and the social and political forces that allowed their existence.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A portrait of a courageous woman who endured hardship and later established a delicate balance of trust with her granddaughter that allowed her to finally tell the family’s story.” —Booklist

“For these fundamental violations of the basic civil liberties and constitutional rights of these individuals of Japanese ancestry, we apologize on behalf of the Nation.” —President Ronald Reagan, August 10, 1988

Product Details

  • File Size: 510 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Pegasus Books (January 10, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00658EQ0G
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #238 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shikataganai January 16, 2012
This is the non-fiction story of Kimi Grant's grandparents. They and their families were Japanese Americans interned in a camp during WWII. They never spoke of those years until Kimi was finally able to persuade her Obaachan (grandmother in Japanese) to tell her what happened to herself and her family. Even then, the shame is still with her and she suggests to Kimi. "Why don't you make it fiction?"

Grant does an outstanding job of explaining the mindset of the Japanese that faced these internments - the haji - the sense of privacy and shikataganai - the Japanese philosophy of "whatever happens, happens, you cannot change your fate, so don't bother feeling sorry for yourself".
She explains life for her Obaachan's family before the war and especially, what can be shocking for many; the fact that citizenship was denied until 1954. The Japanese were restricted to segregated beaches and so many other indignities and then the years of internment- 1941 to 1945. We see through her grandmother's eyes - the life in the camp. Even though she marries and has her first child, the conditions are stifling, one of sameness and of bare necessities and most of all no freedom.
We can feel the humiliations heaped upon them, the privacy taken away, their freedom lost and personal possessions gone. We also see the impossible choices they were faced with in the camps - questionnaires that if answered no, meant they were not patriotic Americans, but yet, since those not born in America were not citizens, if they rejected Japanese citizenship...would they be people without a country after the war?

This is a book that draws you into a shameful part of American history, but more than that we are drawn into this family and Obaachan's story. We can understand a part of history in a more personal sense than ever before.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars FRS June 10, 2012
This book should be in every Middle & High school library of this nation. It is a very accessible read for younger reader & it will teach them what is carefully avoided in most text books. The respectful relationship between grand-daughter & grand-mother is a great example of how family members should interact. A positive example for certain.
I also noted the minor error about the slinky.
But it was outweighed by the other historical remarks that can easily be fact-checked.
A great first book. Congratulations !!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful! September 6, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I really loved this book! It is a not often told story of the resilience of some of our Greatest Generation.

Many are not familiar with the Japanese interment during WW II and how our citizens of Japanese ancestry were treated.

The author's sensitivity to her grandmother's story and their relationship made the story profound for me
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars important event not covered in MY history classes April 13, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Internment of Japanese citizens on the West Coast occurred just before I was born. I had classmates in grade school whose parents had been sent to the camps. I really never knew that much about this and it certainly wasn't covered in any detail in any history classes I took, so this was an important book for me to read. I live on the West Coast and regularly meet people who were affected by internment in one way or another. I would recommend this book to my friends and others, and sent a copy to my mother's kindle (which I manage) right after finishing the book. Recommended!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be a best seller March 2, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
What makes this book so important and beautiful is the author's ability to NOT make this book simply a criticism of the U.S. government's decision to imprison (the euphemisms are "relocation" and "internment") over 100,000 Japanese who were living legally in this country, and the prejudices & discrimination the Japanese experienced. She certainly covers those terrible things in appropriate measure: "Three days before Christmas of 1941, Life magazine ran an article titled "How to Tell Japs from the Chinese". Nor does the author try to portray her family as super-humans who courageously endured a terrible chapter in American history. Instead, the author stays on course and brings us into four generations of her family. A family with personalities and differences and weaknesses and frustrations.

The imprisonment of her grandparents during WW II wasn't discussed when she was a child. During college, the author began spending more time with her widowed grandmother. A hard-working woman of few words, the grandmother didn't suddenly open up and let loose with something she had bottled up for over sixty years. The author's multiple year journey in talking to her grandmother, along with the attitudes of the subsequent generations, are as much a part of this book as the events that took place in the Wyoming camp. And that's why I think this book is so well done. The stories of the relocation and internment are astounding: We learn not only about the pains of life in the camp, but how her grandparents dated, married and began a family while imprisoned. We also learn about how the attitudes and experiences carried on well after the imprisonment and affected subsequent generations.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars To survive, one must accept. November 12, 2012
By Arali
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Kimi Cunningham Grant wants her grandmother, whom she calls "Obaachan", to share her memories of the most tragic events of World War II: the internment of Japanese-Americans directly following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Obaachan was sent with her family to one of these camps as a young woman. There she meets her future husband, Kimi's grandfather, "Ojichan".

Because Obaachan is very private and has never spoken of these sad events in her life, Kimi has to be very careful and tread lightly when asking certain questions. Her Ojichan, the more approachable of her grandparents is long dead and not available to question. Therefore, she must gather her courage to approach Obaachan. Kimi wants to write a book not only for the purpose of recording her grandmother's experiences during such and important time in history, but to better know who her Obaachan really is. Thus begins the journey back in time to when Obachan was a young woman with dreams of attending college. Those dreams are shattered the moment news of the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor is reported. Obaachan's family, along with thousands of other Japanese-Americans, are herded out of the West coast and sent to live in concentration camps for the remainder of the war. Obaachan was just about to start college when the news arrives that they must leave everything behind and make the move to Heart Mountain, Wyoming. A place purposely chosen by the American government because of it's vast, desolate landscape and unforgiving winters.

Kimi wonders how her family, with Obaachan's ailing mother, withstood such harshness of conditions, being hated by the locals, and kept in the camps by stern, armed guards.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I didn't know much of anything about America's Japanese internment. It was informative and an interesting story
Published 3 months ago by DV123
2.0 out of 5 stars Forced to Live Far Away
The Japanese people living in California before the attack on Pearl Harbor experienced a totally different life after the attack. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Judith D. Backes
5.0 out of 5 stars A different approach to the internment.
This is another book dealing with the internment of the persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast during World War II. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Sarah Marie
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
interesting book
Published 5 months ago by Judith Ishmiel
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
just one more injustice-why they wanted to remain here after this treatment is beyond me.
Published 6 months ago by snuggiesmom
5.0 out of 5 stars the story was almost like a movie visualization
Lots of students read it and hated/disliked it. Personally, when I got past the rather drawn out sequences b/w Obaachan and Kimi, the story was almost like a movie visualization, t... Read more
Published 7 months ago by XIX THRASHER
4.0 out of 5 stars loved the book
As a fiction book about the Japanese internment camps I found this book to be a great overview. It seemed to tell the situation as it really was without dramatizing the story. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Didi
4.0 out of 5 stars Extremely well-written memoir of Japanese-Americans interned during...
This is a wonderful memoir. The author as an adult interviews her Japanese grandmother, whom she never really knew that well while she was growing up. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Diane L. Lybbert
3.0 out of 5 stars Important story, but not very compelling
The book itself came in good condition, but the story it contains is a little anticlimactic and dry. I had a hard time getting through this book because it failed to compel me. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Abigail Kokitus
4.0 out of 5 stars good price
eh. good price though
Published 8 months ago by david
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