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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 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
on 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
on September 6, 2012
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
on April 13, 2012
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
on March 2, 2012
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. The author allows herself to wonder how she personally, and others of her generation, would react in the face of a similar experience. Does the attitude of "shikataganai", surrendering to one's fate, have a place in our lives today?

Your heart will ache when you read about how Americans threw stones at the busses that were relocating families away from their homes. You will get angry when you hear how the author's family, including her very ill great-grandmother, was housed in a fairground barn before the Wyoming camp was built. But more importantly, you will get to know a family who endured all of this.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2012
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. Obachacn explains the mind set of "shikataganai", the belief that you must accept everything that happens to you without bitterness because you cannot change it. "You make the best out of your situation and you keep your head held high." I can imagine just how difficult this must have been for Kimi to accept, coming from a generation that is taught to question and protest injustices. But for Obaachan, "shikataganai" helped her hold on to her dignity and sense of self.

Most of this book are Obaachan's memories coupled with historical sources and Kimi's suppositions. There was much that Obaachan would not share due to maintaining her privacy leaving some parts of the story untold. For example, I would love to have known more about the American woman who requested to be imprisoned with her Japanese husband, or about the Japanese cross dresser, or the Japanese cowboy. The book left me a little unsatisfied, as did the abrupt ending. Still, it forms a purposeful addition to other books on this subject.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 23, 2012
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Kimi's account of her Grandmother's life during WWII. Japanese internment camps are something I had vaguely heard of, but never really knew much about until reading this book. I am thankful my German Grandparents didn't end up in the same situation.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2011
I came into "Silver like Dust" with the expectation of reading a historical novel set entirely within a Japanese internment camp during the World War II period but instead an entirely different story awaited me. The narrative shifts fluidly back and forth between the present and past from the point of view of the author. We receive a personal family history and perhaps more importantly the story of a growing relationship and connection between grandmother and granddaughter. Such a narrative not only brings us emotionally closer to the events of the past but keeps us tethered to the realities of the present as well.

"For so many years, she was a mystery to me," the author announces as she begins her tale. Not only her grandmother, Obaachan, but the story of her past as well lies incomplete and unknown to both the author and to us. All she knows is that the intrinsic Japanese quality and concept of haji, shame, shadows the truth and encompasses those murky events of the past. After frequent visits to Obaachan's Florida home, their bond grows stronger and slowly the story of her family's internment comes to light.

What struck me most about the scenes in the internment camp were the inner thoughts and aspirations of Obaachan and her new family born behind bars. There were no physical bars at the camps; in fact they functioned much like an enclosed microcosm of a village. However, armed sentries watched for anyone trying to escape, the prisoners were referred to by numbers and were not allowed out into the outside world. Imagining having to raise your child in a prison with no future and no chance to ever fulfill their potential is a very frightening prospect. Being in such a place solely based on your race highlights the injustice of it all.

Taking place both in the past and the present, the presentation of events flows seamlessly. I never found myself lost and felt connected to the characters at all times. The author's language never bogs down the narrative; instead, her writing feels very natural almost like a conversation with a friend. Whenever she introduces Japanese food or concepts that the reader may not understand a brief description follows never breaking the chain of thought. Along with these concepts, brief explanations of the background behind the Japanese internment including laws and the cultural mindset at the time really help pull the narrative into perspective and were a nice touch.

"Silver like Dust" presents a unique and intimate take on America's Japanese internment. It is a personal story of one family whose experience they shared with thousands of other displaced Japanese. A granddaughter finally comes to understand who her grandmother really is and a bond that lay dormant and fragile becomes stronger, reminding all of us the importance of shared memories that pass from generation to generation. By the end of the novel, I felt a strong connection to this family and found their story so riveting that I did not want it to end. I wanted to know what happened in the years between Obaachan's internment and the present. I highly recommend this novel, the first by Kimi Cunningham Grant but hopefully not the last.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 23, 2014
The Japanese people living in California before the attack on Pearl Harbor experienced a totally different life after the attack. They were taken from their homes and could take only what they could carry as they were forced to live in internment camps. It is hard to understand Americans' fear of those of Japanese descent after the Pearl Harbor attack. This book tells the story of one family's experience of loss, confusion and loss of hope. The granddaughter decides to learn about her family's experiences by interviewing her grandmother over a series of visits over a two year period.
The story was informative but did not engage the reader effectively. The story ending was abrupt and left the reader with many questions.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 23, 2012
This book really opens your eyes to the way things were during the war. The way the Japanese Americans were treated was shameful. They were put in prison without a trial. This book gives the Japanese American point of view, what they were feeling, and what their reactions were.

I know our concentration camps did not mistreat people the way the Nazis did, but reading this book takes away any feelings of self-righteousness.
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