Thursday, July 27, 2006

'Strawberry Days' at Firedoglake

UPDATE: Here's a link to the opening discussion. Please feel free to join in.

I'm terribly honored to announce that my most recent book, Strawberry Days: How Internment Destroyed a Japanese American Community, has been selected for the next book salon discussion at Firedoglake. There will be a hosted discussion this Sunday, July 30, and another the following Sunday, Aug. 6, in which I'll participate. (It will probably be hard for me to stay away from the first discussion, truth be told.)

Coming as it does on the heels of their smashingly successful discussions of Glenn Greenwald's How Would a Patriot Act?, Eric Boehlert's Lapdogs, Sam Seder's FUBAR, and George Soros' The Age of Fallibility, I can't help being just a wee tad ecstatic over the decision by Jane, Redd, and the gang to host my year-old book.

(Not only that, but they made a copy of Strawberry Days the prize in their recent Michelle Malkin rap contest, a bit of subtle and wicked humor. Hope you enjoy, Punaise!)

Despite its being a year old now, I think Strawberry Days has, if anything become even more current. Among the subjects it explores are:
-- The hole in the Constitution that the internment episode opened up -- namely, the potentially illimitable powers accorded to the executive branch during wartime, including the power of the military to indefinitely incarcerate civilians, based solely upon their race, in a non-battlefield situation, without review by the courts. It also discusses how the Bush administration has made use of these precedents en route to its own expansion of powers.

-- The crude racism that drove the anti-Japanese-immigrant campaigns for much of the first half of the twentieth century, and the indispensable role it played in eventually bringing about the mass incarceration of 120,000 people. While the text was published before immigration became a national debate, readers will readily recognize the astonishing similarities between that earlier nativist campaign and the current one playing out on our southern border and elsewhere.

Somewhat secondarily, it remains the only text that specifically addresses -- and repudiates -- Michelle Malkin's apologia for the internment. Fortunately, Malkin's thesis has shown no real longevity and is now largely ignored. Nonetheless, the revisionism that it represents lives on in a multitude of similar "conservative movement" enterprises, and its exposure is if nothing else helpful in seeing how one might go about dealing with the latest permutations of right-wing psychosis.

One of the real reasons I'm so tickled is that, truth be told, Strawberry Days hasn't done terribly well so far.

When it's been reviewed, it's gotten excellent reviews, including a glowing piece in the Seattle Times. But the problem has been getting it reviewed; I think that book editors (like many book consumers) saw it as a regional or local-interest offering primarily (and certainly it has done well enough regionally), but not something they wanted to spend the space on reviewing. Haven't there been a bunch of internment books already?

Of course, I knew there were a lot of internment books already available. But Strawberry Days is fairly unique in a lot of regards: it's constructed more as a non-fiction narrative than as an academic or strictly historical work. It also examines critical aspects of the internment and the Japanese American community that are often missed in other texts, including a frank assessment of the role of white supremacy in the overt oppression of the Japanese immigrants, as well as the role of the agricultural life among the Japanese.

But, you know, people won't know that without reading it. So it largely went unreviewed in any major publication. The only national newspaper (so to speak) to review it was, ironically enough, the Washington Times, which wrote glowingly about it.

And, even though we sold out the first two smallish (2,000) runs, the publisher reports tepid sales and so far is hesitant about putting it out in paperback -- a critical step for this book, I think, since doing so seem to me critical to helping it find its audience. It's the kind of book I think people would be far more likely to pick up for $16 instead of $30.

So I'm hoping the interest generated by the FDL book salon can help get Strawberry Days over the hump. It's part of a critical chain of support for what I'm doing here: the book writing gives me the time and financial space to blog. If it doesn't stay afloat, then I'll probably have to shutter the other things I'm doing. That's not a threat, just a reality.

I've set up the link above to go to Jane's Amazon page for the book. If you haven't gotten a copy, you should do it pronto. If you already have one, well, see you at Jane's place.

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