Summary and Analysis
Opening the final stage of her memoir with an original seventeen-syllable haiku, Jeanne indicates that much anguish will precede her acceptance of the past. Unlike Woody, who made the coming-of-age passage in 1946, Jeanne will require another two decades "to accumulate the confidence to deal with what the equivalent experience would have to be for me." Following a partial thawing of frozen feelings in 1966, she and Jim drive their eleven-year-old daughter and five-year-old twin boy and girl to Manzanar in April 1972. The family passes through the Sierras amid Mojave dust and arrives at two gatehouses and other familiar buildings. The Manzanar high school is being used as a city maintenance depot; not much else remains, but Jeanne reconstructs memories from the rocky debris that lies along the camp's fading outlines.
After her family has seen all there is to see and turned toward the car, Jeanne remains alone, eyeing the dark-haired beauty of her eldest child, who is about the age that Jeanne was when Manzanar closed. Able at last to let go of the twenty-five-year phantasm, Jeanne bids farewell to Manzanar, but acknowledges the lingering presence, which "would always live in my nervous system, a needle with Mama's voice." Searching deeper into the tangled, semi-submerged melange of feelings, Jeanne locates a handhold — Papa's defiance, an image that becomes "the rest of my inheritance." In his madcap ranting, he had put value where it belonged — a determination to spend money for a flashy new (even if used) car to avoid the shame of returning like animals in a stinking, crowded bus. He would reclaim his family's freedom in style.
Through first-person narration, Jeanne communicates intensely personal information in a straightforward, unsentimental style in this final section of the novel. The first of the Wakatsukis to gain a college education and the first to marry a non-Asian, she sets high standards for herself, particularly after the demoralizing three-year detainment in Manzanar. Apparently unencumbered by racist baggage, she gives birth to three mixed-race children and admits to repressing the past by perceiving it as a dream and joking with her siblings about internment. Yet, the experience shared with Kiyo in which an old lady wished that all "dirty Japs" would return to Japan needles Jeanne with an unverbalized hurt.
In a surrealistic montage, Jeanne, like Woody in the post-war milieu of Hiroshima, experiences a rush of spiritual contact with those who died and were buried on Manzanar grounds. Although the outlines of the hospital, latrines, and showers are obscured, the typically Japanese rock gardens remain, a tribute to "something enduringly human." She abstracts herself from the experience of walking the once-familiar terrain and views the site from an archeological point of view. Sounds of laughter and the words from the song "Beautiful Dreamer" invoke a sleepwalking state as past merges with present: Jeanne, the ten-year-old schoolgirl, alongside Jeanne, the mother of three. Rich cultural memories coalesce as she recalls the burning of orange peels as an insect repellent and men passing the time in games of goh and hana.
Symbolic of internees in general and the Wakatsukis in particular, the pear trees, once Ko's personal garden, still survive, "stunted, tenacious, tough, the way a cactus has to be." The sense impressions of twisted branches heady with fragrance rhapsodize the scene for Jeanne, in contrast to the realism of her rambunctious children, who "[demand] to know what we were going to do out here." Returning to the persona of mother, Jeanne agrees that Manzanar, more state of mind than actual place, is "No place for kids."
pagoda an Oriental temple shaped like a tower and topped with a whimsical roof with upturned corners.
alluvial fan clay, sand, gravel, silt, and other debris deposited in a triangle where a stream pours from a gorge.
goh a board game similar to chess.
hana a card game played with Japanese cards which are decorated with hana, or flowers, rather than ace, king, queen, jack or spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs.
yogores ruffians, or hooligans.