Customer Reviews: Silver Like Dust: One Family's Story of Japanese Internment
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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on September 19, 2014
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. It was a beautiful story, it just could have been told a little better. For me, this was required reading for my college, and I had the privilege of hearing the author speak in person about her book, which really made me see it in a different, more positive light. But bear in mind that if you're going to buy this, while the subject is interesting, the writing does not compel you to want to read further. It's not that great is a bad writer, it's just a very calm book, which I'm not used to, as I usually read books that keep you hanging on to the end of every sentence.

Overall, it tells an important story.
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on September 27, 2014
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. As she spends time with her, she comes to know, understand, and love the old woman. She learns the details of the difficulty those Americans of Japanese extraction faced after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in WWII and the subsequent distrust, prejudice, and ultimately imprisonment of many of them as the war played out. Kimi's grandmother was a teenager when her family was forced to rid themselves of their home, most of their worldly goods, and their relationships after many years living in California. They could take with them only what they could carry, and were placed on a bus to an internment camp in Pamona, CA, and then to a camp in Wyoming which was to be their 'permanent' home until....? They didn't know how long or what would become of them later. Her young grandmother meets a boy in the camp, and they soon become engaged. Once married, they tried to make as normal a life as possible in the camp, and faced an uncertain future. The book is very well written, and brings to life a shameful time in our country's past. We learn about the hope and resilience of the internees, who continue to love America even while being imprisoned there. My only negative comment is that I wish the author had included some pictures. She describes several photographs in the narrative, but I would love to have seen them in the book.
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on December 13, 2012
This is an interesting topic and not one you come across very often. But the style in which it was written was very dry and boring to me. The author describes life in camp through her grandmother's words. Nothing really intriguing or interesting came out of her descriptions. Another reviewer mentioned it was like reading an article, and I have to agree. It was very factual (we lived in a small rooms, the meals we were given were very starch heavy, the bathrooms had no doors between toilets, etc). She did go into detail about how Japanese Americans were treated in the US during WWII - that part was somewhat interesting and I felt like I learned something new, but not enough to save the book.

Overall, I would pass on this one. Good thing it was pretty short, as I would have probably given up on it if it were any longer.
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