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Paper Wishes: 10/25/16

Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban

Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban is about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War Two, told from the point of view of ten year old Manami of Bainbridge Island, Washington.

Manami and her family and all the other Japanese Americans (primarily farmers) on the island are sent by train to Manzanar. At the start of the move, an army officer forces Manami to abandon her puppy, Yujiin. Along with losing her dog, she loses her voice.

With a protagonist, the narrator of the novel, voiceless, the story settles into a tell don't show. The narrative also suffers from that oddly formal English that books fall into when the language patterns of another language is rendered in English. Here it's the way Manami refers to her family. Why not just use the transliterated Japanese words instead? Okasan, Otosan, Nisan, and so forth?

But those two things are minor quibbles in an otherwise interesting Manzanar story. What sets this one apart is the cultural differences between California (primarily San Francisco and Central California) Japanese Americans and the Bainbridge Island Japanese Americans. Before starting the book I knew nothing about the Japanese population on Bainbridge Island or the fact that they ended up requesting transfer to a different internment camp because of on-going strife with the California population.

Four stars

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