Color of the Sea

Written by John Hamamura
Review by Patrika Salmon

This is a novel everyone should read, not just because it’s a nicely-layered book with depth and meaning, beautifully written and well balanced, but because it deals with a topic which many people still don’t understand.

John Hamamura, the author, is part of the reason why it’s a must-read book. He is a Japanese American and he knows, from the inside, what it feels like to be torn between cultures. This honesty is reflected in his writing, and no, it’s not a book about cultural angst; it’s about being a Japanese American at the outbreak of World War II. Other novels have taken a “wicked Americans” or “wicked Japanese” position. This novel simply relates what it was like for Sam Hamada to be a Japanese American, go between relatives in Japan and home in Hawaii, attend university in California, fall in love, plan his life, and then be treated as a criminal—until his bilingual fluency and unarmed combat skills are discovered and used by the FBI and the American army.

There are no polemics, taking sides or positions. This book, based on the author’s own experiences, tells an excellent story, and readers can learn much from it. It’s difficult to imagine what it was like being part of the American forces arriving in Japan when the war was over, knowing that your relatives live in Hiroshima. This novel gives those of us who did not experience it some idea, and leaves us with the understanding that it is our individual choices which can make our lives.