Summary and Analysis
Part 1: Chapters 5-7
The Wakatsuki family begins to fragment as older members take meager money-making jobs in the camp, and Jeanne turns to peer activities and people wanting entertainment. Lacking home religious instruction, she is attracted to a new type of stability: nuns who run a children's village. Gruesome stories of Christian saints and martyrs keep Jeanne interested in the local chapel, which is a mile from her barracks. Walking through 100 degree heat brings on sunstroke, which keeps her in bed for a week. In September 1942, Papa Ko, looking ten years older, returns from Fort Lincoln, a prison southeast of Bismark, North Dakota. Chapter 7 reconstructs the interrogations that initiated Ko's imprisonment.
Much of Jeanne's commentary reveals scholarly grounding in sociological research. In evaluating the damage done to families, she concludes, "My own family, after three years of mess hall living, collapsed as an integrated unit." In Manzanar, she yearned for the early years when her family shared abundant meals at a great round table in their Ocean Park home. Eventually, authorities perceive the importance to a family unit of shared meals. From that point on, internees are encouraged to dine in intimate, supportive family groups, but their efforts are too late.
The narrative recounts Papa's return, then segues back into his history as a strongly individualistic teenager grown into an entrepreneur and autocratic father. The experience of internment and separation from Ko forces Jeanne into soul-wrenching evaluations of his character and behavior. She concludes as generously as the facts allow with a brief analytic character sketch:
He was not a great man. He wasn't even a very successful man. He was a poser, a braggart, and a tyrant. But he had held onto his self-respect, he dreamed grand dreams, and he could work well at any task he turned his hand to: he could raise vegetables, sail a boat, plead a case in small claims court, sing Japanese poems, make false teeth, carve a pig.
The severity of Jeanne's estimation suggests the high cost of so scathing an evaluation of her highly valued father. To redeem her father, she recreates a prison scene with a twenty-nine-year-old interrogator in which Ko demonstrates his humanism by saying: "As long as military men control the country you are always going to have a war."
grunion silver fish the size of sardines which swim ashore in high tide to spawn in wet sand at the full of the moon and are caught by hand or in a net.
kabuki a popular, stylized Japanese theater performance featuring melodramatic colorful costumes, wigs, makeup, posturing, singing, and dancing.
Maryknoll the popular name for the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America.
catechism a specified list of questions and answers which teaches the principles of Catholicism.
swagger stick a metal-tipped baton carried by military officers as a symbol of authority.
Commodore Perry an American naval officer who opened Japan's ports to Westerners.
Miya-jima an island twelve miles south of the city of Hiroshima.
Niigata a coastal city on the island of Honshu about 100 miles north of Tokyo.
Nippon Japanese for "Japan."
Ty Cobb A famed outfielder and base stealer for the Detroit Tigers from 1905 to 1926, he was the first baseball star honored at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
Wakatsuki Ko Using her father's full name, the author illustrates the Oriental practice of placing the family name before the given name.