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Camp Nine: A Novel by Vivienne Schiffer

Camp Nine: A Novel (edition 2011)

by Vivienne Schiffer

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329347,362 (4.03)3
Title:Camp Nine: A Novel
Authors:Vivienne Schiffer
Info:University of Arkansas Press (2011), Hardcover, 151 pages
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Camp Nine by Vivienne Schiffer


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A coming of age story of a young girl growing up on the Arkansas delta during WW2. Her small town of just over 800 people was chosen as one of the locations for a Japanese-American Relocation Camp. Ten thousand Japanese-Americans arrived overnight and proceeded to make something out of nothing.

This is not a history of the camp (in fact or fiction) although some of the events are based on the author's life growing up in the town the book is based on. It is a story of how people react to change and how things look so different when you return years later. I quite enjoyed this one. ( )
  dulcibelle | Apr 29, 2014 |
In Schiffer’s finely wrought debut novel-set in Rook, Ark. in 1942-12-year old Chess Morton’s quiet life of plantations and bayous changes abruptly after her wealthy landowning grandfather sells some worthless land to the government. Housing 10,000 new residents, Camp Nine becomes one of many camps where West Coast Japanese were held in isolation during WWII. As she watches her mother thwart local conventions by championing the Japanese, Chess matures. Schiffer immerses readers in the thick bayou air and community tensions. Summary BPL

Absorbing read about a Japanese internment camp in Arkansas during World War II told from a young American girl’s point of view. Schiffer explores issues such as marital infidelity, racism, segregation, feminism and civil liberties, making them the stuff of her story. Although I have read several novels about this subject, Ms Schiffer was able to teach me more about this shameful episode in North American history.

8 out of 10. For fans of the American south and World War II history. ( )
  julie10reads | Jul 26, 2012 |
As of the date that I am reading the reviews of this book, everyone here seems to really like it. The writing was fine, but it all just seemed a little superficial and contrived to me, and I'm not sure what the author's intent was. Just a coming of age story?

The main message seemed to be about racism - against the Japanese during World War II and against black people, but it treats this subject in such a bland way that it seems it was written for young adults and not for adults per se.

I wanted to read this book because of the theme of the Japanese internment camps. Being a Japanophile, I have done some reading on this topic. The best books I have read so far about this experience are the ones by Julie Otsuka: "When the Emperor Was Divine" and "The Buddha in the Attic." This book doesn't come anywhere near those two.

In sum, it was just a sweet tale told by someone who wanted to share something of what she saw and experienced when she was growing up, but it's not a book of depth and grittiness. ( )
  JolleyG | Apr 1, 2012 |
For such a small book (151 pages), this one sure packs a punch.

I know very little about the camps created here in the states for the Japanese after Pearl Harbor. But over the last year, I’ve been reading more fiction about the horrible treatment not only received by the Japanese, but other immigrants during that time period (Also, see Lost in Shangri La by Mitchell Zuckoff).

This book tells a fictional story of “Camp Nine”, based on a camp that was located in the authors hometown (name changed), and based on real life characters. It’s heart-breaking, inspiring, and eye-opening – three things that make up a powerful book. However, it’s such a quiet story that the full impact didn’t even hit me until I’d set it down and thought about it for a while, a fact that makes me shake my head in wonder. I do love it when a story creeps up on you like that.

While I enjoyed reading about Chess and her mother, David and Henry Matsui and some of the other interesting characters in the book, my attention was very much captured by Cottonmouth Willie. Schiffer does a beautiful job building up this quiet, background character and giving him a voice that sings as beautifully as his music appears to. When describing his style of blues, I could hear it in my head – and as a musician, something like that is invaluable to me.

This would be a fantastic book to give any history buffs in your life. It’s unusual, very unique, and enlightening, to be sure. ( )
  TheLostEntwife | Dec 1, 2011 |
I came up with nine reasons to read this fine debut novel: here are the first few, and my full response is here. I hope you'll check it out!

1. Remarkable wrangling with world-changing matters: racism.
(Most of what I say in my post is about this: but there are other fine reasons too.)

2. Southern US setting
(Many readers know and love Southern fiction, but this isn’t Mississippi: it’s Arkansas. That’s refreshing. Even if Chess does think it’s boring!)

“I sank into his oversized leather chair and spent the next three hours in the romantic English countryside with Jane Eyre, holding at bay the crushing boredom of the Arkansas Delta.”

3. Family dynamics
(Southern literary families: so messed up. From the O’Haras to the Mortons: power struggles and all that talk of land.)

4. Vibrant minor characters
(Like Willie “Cottonmouth” Monroe, who seems to be at the margins of the story, but without him, the rest of the narrative would have taken such a different shape.)

5. First-person narration across time
(Which plays intelligently with the skeleton of what is understood in the past with later realizations of complexity. It’s not just about what is remembered, but the evolution of perspective.)

“So many things lay ahead, but it would only be in looking back that I would see them all connected.”

[And the rest is here...] ( )
  buriedinprint | Nov 26, 2011 |
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This book is dedicated with love and devotion to the Infant of Prague.
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These are the parts of my life: before Camp Nine and after Camp Nine, and those brief, unexpected days when Camp Nine was everything to me.
To the Japanese, the cherry tree was a symbol of how short and beautiful life was because the blossoms lasted a handful of precious days, then fell to the ground while they were still young and beautiful.
On a deeper level than I understood, Camp Nine had defined my life. The misery of thousands had shone a light on who I was, on who we all were, here in the Delta. Would I have ever known these things without their sacrifice?
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When Camp Nine, a relocation camp for Japanese Americans, is built near tiny Rook, Arkansas, Chess Morton becomes involved with two young internees and an American soldier who has some connection with her mother's past.

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