Today is a Day of Remembrance, recalling the date that President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, a slippery slope of an act that led to the incarceration of some 120,000 people of Japanese descent, most of them American citizens. None of those incarcerated were ever convicted of treason or espionage; some, like the extraordinarily brave Gordon Hirabayshi, were jailed for breaking curfew, and otherwise trying to fight the unjust measures taken by our government. By us.
Today, I’d especially like to remember two people.
|Reverend Emery Andrews|
The first is Reverend Emery Andrews whose courage and good-heartedness inspires me to do a little bit better in my life, though I could never stand up against the tide of public opinion in the way he did. Reverend Andrews was the inspiration for the father in my book, The Fences Between Us; you can read more of his story here or in my Author’s Note.
The second person is Mitsi Shiraishi, the inspiration for my latest book, Dash. When Mitsi learned it would be against the rules to take her precious dog, Chubby, with her to Tule Lake, she wrote General DeWitt to ask him to reconsider that rule. He refused. Mitsi was one of the lucky ones and was able to find a home for her pet, with a neighbor, Mrs. Charles Bovee. Mrs. Bovee kept a diary of Chubby’s first few weeks in her household — writing it in Chubby’s voice! — and sent it to Mitsi while she was still in the camp.
At the end of her life, Mitsi’s family found that diary in her nightstand. When I think of all of the really rotten things that happened to Mitsi and when I think of the fact that what she held onto was a sign of compassion, rather than bitterness, I am in awe. That is true courage. That is a life well-lived.
Who do you remember on this Day of Remembrance?
I read The Fences Between Us. Sucha moving book. When I was growing up, none of that was acknowledged. And I’ve been struck, too, by the incredible compassion rather than bitterness that have marked people I’ve met who went through that experience. A former principal of mine (who has now passed away) spent time in the camps and yet was the epitome of nonjudgemental, loving kindness. I remember Oscar Satow today.
Kirby, I have a group of students starting a literature circle and they chose to read your book, The Fences Between Us. They’ll start reading today and I’ll share this post with them. I think this will really bring the story to life for them. It’s definitely one I loved and am anxious to share with this group of sixth graders. Now I need to read Dash too!