It isn't very often that I pick up a book that isn't somehow familiar, either by title or author. I grabbed up Yoshiko Uchida's Picture Bride in the bargain section of my favorite used book store a few weeks ago, just because it sounded good. And I am so glad that I did.
I am particularly fascinated by stories of the Japanese internment camps in the U.S. during World War 2. Just a few weeks ago I reviewed Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, which is getting rave reviews by book bloggers. I found Picture Bride to be much, much better.
The story takes place between 1918 and the mid-1940s. Hana is a young woman who agrees to come to America and marry a Japanese man she'd never met. From here we follow Hana into her life as a Japanese immigrant, struggling to live in a white world but holding tightly to to her Japanese community. In this community are a cast of wonderful, strong characters who are determined to make their way in America.
Hana and her husband eventually have a little girl, who grows up to be thoroughly American and ashamed of her Japanese parents. The novel eventually takes us to the experience of the internment camps, and I've rarely read it expressed better than it is here.
This is a simple and quiet novel, and somehow it touched me deeply. I find it interesting that Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet has received such accolades but it is a little known book like this that packs such a powerful punch. I highly recommend it, along with these books below about the Japanese-American experience:
When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas
The Magic of Ordinary Days by Ann Creel
Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
Yokohama, California by Toshio Mori
Citizen 13360 by Mine Okubo
Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston