The Red Kimono

Written by Jan Morrill
Review by Viviane Crystal

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese military attacked Pearl Harbor, killing the father of a young African-American, Terence – who flies out of his house in a rage, joins some friends, attacks a Japanese man, and is convicted of murder. Sentenced to serve two years in prison, he has plenty to think about. He begins to study to get his high school diploma and learns to see bias, prejudice, and race from a different point of view, with the assistance of a caring white lawyer who inspires Terence to become a truly free man who serves society rather than blames or abuses it.

At the same time, Terence’s crime has left Sachiko and Nobu fatherless and their mother, who becomes more and more disheartened with life day by day, a widow. The three are sent first to the Japanese internment camp in Santa Ana, California, and then to another camp in Arkansas. They struggle mightily to deal with their immense anger and confusion at the shameful behavior of the Americans who imprison them “for their own safety,” albeit in the guise of a naïve and shameful excuse. Beautiful and strange friendships are formed, misunderstandings and apologies abound, and hope springs eternal in the face of the harshest conditions.

This novel is sensitive, bold, and creative; the truth of the experiences herein is nothing less than astonishing and refuses to truck with clichés or easy solutions. This is one of the best books this reviewer has read in years! Highly recommended.