Kiyo’s Story

How long have you been stepped upon?
Today you bloom.
haiku, author unknown
Kiyo Sato tells her family’s remarkable story of endurance and perseverance in Dandelion Through the Crack.  Sato’s father and mother emigrated from Japan to the Sacramento area, grew strawberries on a twenty acre farm, and raised nine children.  Ordered to evacuate, in May, 1942 the family, carrying what they could, were sent to the Poston internment camp.

Kiyo was allowed to leave internment in the fall to go to Hillsdale College. Every free space in her schedule is filled with a job to help pay her tuition.  After the war is over, the family returns to their farm, beginning the arduous process of rebuilding and replanting.

It’s been a while since I’ve stayed up into the single digit hours reading a book I Could Not Put Down.  The writing is good, but not cracking good.  The graphics and layout of the book have a feel of self-publishing.  The cover doesn’t call out, “Read me. Read me. Read me.”  But the story carries all the baggage and propels you through the pages. 

Sato family

I can’t help but love Tochan (Japanese for father) and Mama, the strong, hard-working, long-suffering parents whose daily graces and passions infuse their family with love and devotion.  Tochan loved books, plants, music (he began violin lessons while he was interned), his children.  Mama loved cleanliness, working, making food for her family, nurturing her children.  Kiyo, a youthful 85 year old, writes with the fidelity and love of a very thankful daughter.  Her words remind me of George Dawson in Life is So Good who remarked that if he could give anyone in the world this gift, he would give him the experience of having his (George’s) father as his own.

If you want more first-hand accounts of the Japanese internment, you can find them here. You can also watch fourteen short video clips of Kiyo Sato talking about her experiences.    

Thank you, dear Rachel, for giving me this book.


8 thoughts on “Kiyo’s Story

  1. One of the elders at our church in Portland was interned in California.  The injustices built in him a bitterness that eventually began to overwhelm him, and subsequently led to his conversion to the Lord Jesus Christ.  Peace is only found in the Lord Jesus Christ.

  2. Reading Farewell to Manzanar about another interned family is also good. A lot of the Issei (1st generation) were very disillusioned and embittered by it, so it was good to read that this family made it through intact, and were able to continue farming. I saw a one-man show about the internment at my college, where one of the Issei offered art lessons to the camp. The human spirit is an amazing thing–it makes me thankful God made us that way, resilient. And why weren’t German-Americans interned, you ask, during WWII? Good question. No good answer

  3. This sounds like a touching book, I will need to find it, it would be a good summer or school vacation type of a book. (Staying up late or even all night to read isn’t unheard of, but I can’t do it during school!) I have an answer for “And why weren’t German-Americans interned, you ask, during WWII? Good question. No good answer”    German-Americans weren’t as easily recognizable for their ethnicity as were Asian-Americans. Sadly for the US, we seemed to be a ‘White Europeans Only’ society at that time. . . Paranoia is a BAD thing! Adeline Yen Mah also wrote a very touching memoir, she was an unwanted Chinese daughter (in China) and what she writes about is unforgivable, in my opinion, on the part of her family. Falling Leaves is the title.

  4. Dandelion Through the Crack is one of three nonfiction finalists for the 2008 William Saroyan International Writing Prize. The winner will be announced on Sept. 5, 2008. The book has previously won local and regional awards (Sacramento County Historical Society; Northern California Publishers & Authors). It is also believed to be under consideration for yet another national award (Association for Asian American Studies).The book is also scheduled for paperback publication (retitled Kiyo’s Story) by Soho Press (New York), spring 2009.

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