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The Little Exile by Jeanette Arakawa

The Little Exile

by Jeanette Arakawa

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Some readers may not be aware of it, but following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the loyalty of Japanese-Americans instantly came under suspicion. Shortly thereafter, they were rounded up and sent to internment camps, mostly for the duration of the war. This is the story of Jeanette "Marie" Arakawa, who was 9 years old and living in San Francisco at the time. She ended up at Rohwer Relocation Center in Arkansas.

Although written by a woman now well into her mid-80s, this memoir is surprisingly vivid. There is a large amount of dialog, which the author explains is included as she remembered it. Much of it sounds rather 'adult,' and I often found it distracting, but it helps to humanize the story (although the dialog and some experiences seem fictionalized, it is 'as the author remembers it' and I consider the book the be a non-fiction memoir). But the perspective of a child during this important part of history is interesting, and it is fortunate Mrs. Arakawa has written her recollections. And it was sometimes heart-breaking. While Marie still had a number of 'normal' experiences, I personally was saddened at how often she ended up having to move and the temporary nature of nearly all her friendships. A short(ish) and easy read. ( )
  J.Green | Nov 30, 2017 |
The Little Exile, a novel by Jeanette S. Arakawa is a fictionalized account of the life of Marie Mitsui, Arakawa’s alter ego, a Japanese American youngster around World War II.
I want to thank the author for having the courage to chronicle the events of her life during a painful time when many that had gone through it are reticent to talk about it even 75 years later. I thank her for using this story to open the eyes of those that are still unaware that the United States of America incarcerated Japanese Americans during World War II.
This is an easy-to-read story told through the eyes of an adolescent girl; an American citizen born to Japanese parents. The parable progresses through Marie’s life from San Francisco in late 1930s; to the bombing of Pearl Harbor; her family’s evacuation to an internment camp in Arkansas; and their return to San Francisco after the end of the war.
This book is historical fiction based on facts from the author’s personal experiences. While it lacks the intense tension in many dramatic historical fiction stories, this one is compelling because the author does a very good job of providing vivid, colorful, and detailed descriptions of the characters and settings. I found the characters likeable and realistic. Their relationships were touching but not mushy. The tension comes from Marie’s encounters with bullies and bigots; her alcoholic father; the stress of loneliness; living behind barbed wires around soldiers with rifles and bayonets. Some of her scrapes are “normal” for a sometimes mischievous kid; others came about because she was a Japanese American and in an internment camp. I felt the mix added to the “roundness” of Marie’s character. She was a normal girl trying to live a normal life under extraordinary circumstances.
I am a “third-generation” (sansei) Japanese American. While I was growing up, I had heard some stories from friends and relatives about life in camp but most that lived through it refused to talk about it. So some of the events and feelings the author describes in this book are familiar but I am glad that she has made her experiences available in print for everyone to read.
I found a few minor editing errors which is my pet peeve when books are produced through a publishing house with professional editors. There were also a few spots where the transitions (story flow) and character introductions could have been smoother.
The author’s meticulous attention to the detailed descriptions used throughout the book leads me to believe that she benefited greatly from her continuing education creative writing class. ( )
  WesleyH | Jul 27, 2017 |
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