Friday, July 08, 2005

Strawberry Days: First reviews

The pieces on my new book, Strawberry Days: How Internment Destroyed a Japanese American Community, are starting to roll in, and so far they've been very positive.

The highest profile so far is from the piece by Diane de la Paz in the P-I, which is actually more in the way of a profile and interview:
Do we need yet another book about the Japanese internment during World War II?

Yes, since it's "Strawberry Days" (Palgrave, 280 pages, $29.95). In this stranger-than-fiction chronicle, veteran Seattle journalist David Neiwert boils the evacuation of 117,000 down to Bellevue, and shows how neighborhood and government forces converged to empty that town of Japanese-American farmers.

In the Seattle Weekly, the estimable J. Kingston Pierce opines:
With its journalistic perspective, Strawberry Days lacks the emotional vigor of, say, Mary Matsuda Gruenewald's new internment-camp memoir, Looking Like the Enemy. Yet David A. Neiwert, once a reporter for the Bellevue Journal-American, uses extensive interviews with ex-internees and the prior printed statements of xenophobes to re-create a wartime climate of distrust, suspicion, and fear that pushed Eastside history to one of its early turning points.

... Most of the information in Strawberry Days has been presented elsewhere. But Neiwert's research into [Miller] Freeman's role in the Japanese expulsion expands our knowledge of this Eastside "founding father." That plus an epilogue in which the author eviscerates modern revisionists who would defend the internment and dispute racism as one of its causes are, by themselves, worth the price of this book.

In the meantime, Scooter at Nod to Nothing posted a warm review too. He notes something I was a little concerned about -- the essentially added-on nature of the Epilogue -- but, like Mr. Pierce, nonetheless deems it a worthy postscript:
The last chapter, "The Internment", is an attempt to contrast the internment of the Japanese in World War II with current apologists and their calls for the legality of similar actions versus other minorities, like post-9/11 American Muslims. As such, the chapter feels slightly "tacked on", but the inclusion is a valid one (and Neiwert is foremost a journalist), particularly because it resonates with Japanese Americans. There is a wonderful anecdote about a JACL employee being contacted numerous times after 9/11 by Japanese Americans having bad dreams about internment. When you read in a previous chapter that there were "claims that the Japanese internees were being fed better in the camps than were American G.I.'s" (p. 205) you get the willies and immediately begin thinking about Guantanamo and lemon chicken (excuse me for not linking to either Malkin's pages about internment or Coulter's diatribe about chicken, I find them both offensive). That's simply not a lot of forward motion since the Dies Committee (yes, it did evolve from criticizing minorities and Nazis into the persecution of communists and the New Left).

What's nice about all these responses is that they indicate the book is fairly effective in communicating the things I was trying to say.

I'm off tonight to the wilds of Bellingham for the 7 p.m. signing at Village Books.

And I'll be out much of the weekend after that. I'm riding in the Seattle to Portland bike ride, hopefully the one-day version. If anyone else is out there, my number is 210, and I'll be aboard a blue Lemond Croix de Fer with an orca on it. I've got a red and black Native "Seawolf" design jersey. Say hello if you see me.

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