Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Release Day! Scenes from GARDEN OF STONES

I don't know if I've ever been so excited about a launch day. I'm on pins and needles, hoping that you, dearest reader, will like GARDEN OF STONES!

Meanwhile, I thought I would share some images that illustrate scenes from the book. Like most of the images I have shared in the past, these were taken by a combination of government-sponsored photographers and internees. (Most ran in an article in The Atlantic in 2011 - click here to see more.)

Early in the book, a funeral for a Japanese-American businessman in Los Angeles is interrupted by plainclothes detectives who forcibly remove one of the guests, a husband and father who does not know what he is being accused of. His family has no idea where he is taken. This happened frequently in the days following Pearl Harbor.

Not long afterward, 14-year-old Lucy Takeda reads a handbill that has been posted in her neighborhood. She doesn't entirely understand the magnitude of the changes the Evacuation Order will bring.

Her mother spends many hours trying to figure out which belongings to pack, knowing they can bring only what they can carry. The rest must be sold for pennies on the dollar. Here's a view of people's belongings on assembly day.

A lovely young woman and her child...I imagine that Lucy's mother, Miyako, wore a similar expression of uncertainty and apprehension as they waited to board the train that would take them away from their home.

This photo is actually of internees arriving at the detention centers where they waited in the weeks before the relocation camps opened. In my book, Lucy and Miyako went directly to Manzanar, but many internees had to spend days or weeks in assembly centers which were frequently made from horse stalls at race tracks.

I include this picture because of the stark face-off between the frightened internees and the soldiers, who in many cases were not sure what they were supposed to be doing.

A first look at Manzanar might have looked much like this. In the book, Lucy and her friends walk the "broad avenues" of the camp, pictured below. Wide roads and gardens separated the resident blocks. Because they weren't paved, dust was an eternal problem.

Early camp meals were virtually inedible to those accustomed to a traditional Japanese diet. Even for Americanized palates, they were far from appealing. This meal includes beans, rice, prunes, and bread. Internees were pressed into kitchen service.

Shortly after arrival, all of the internees were vaccinated. Lucy, like many of the children, was made ill from too high a dosage.

A key scene takes place in a frozen camp garden. Here, you see internees planting the gardens which eventually provided much of their food and all of their fresh produce.

Nearly every adult in the camps held a job, at a fraction of the pay they would earn outside. Miyako works at a dress factory, for instance. One of the largest operations was this net factory, where camouflage nets were made and sent to the front lines. The women wore masks to protect them from the hemp fibers.

I hope these images have brought the story to life...there are many more to be found; you're a google search away from a fascinating record of this time in history.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Internment, in Color - Bill Manbo

In all my research for GARDEN OF STONES, I never came across any color photographs - that is, until last June, when the New York Times ran a piece on a new book in the Review section. Not the NYTBR, that is, though they had nice things to say about COLORS OF CONFINEMENT: Rare Kodachrome Photographs of Japanese American Incarceration in World War II (Eric L. Muller, University of North Carolina Press).

Bill Manbo was an auto mechanic who dabbled in photography, and we have him to thank for these important images. He was sent to the Heart Mountain camp in Utah with his family.

I was not prepared for my visceral reaction to these photos. Color imbued the images with a sense of immediacy that overcame my distance from other images of life in the camps. The people seemed more real to me - less like historic figures and more like everyday people captured at a brief moment in a difficult time in their lives.

Read the article and view a slide show here, or check out the book.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Remembering Assembly Day

In Monday's post I talked about memorials to those soldiers of Japanese descent who fought in World War II in the 442nd regiment. But there are another set of memorials devoted to the experience of internment for the citizens who spent the war in the camps.

Among the most moving is this one in Merced, California. The fairgrounds there served as an assembly center. This sculpture depicts a little girl sitting on her family's belongings while they await instructions.

It's always easy to stir passions by reminding people of the children who are swept up into wartime. But they weren't the only innocent victims, by far. Of course, *all* of the internees were innocent in the sense that they had done nothing to deserve being treated as less than loyal citizens, but what I mean is that they were not the only people who couldn't even make sense of what was happening to them.

The elderly and mentally challenged were also given a brutal shock, unable to grasp what was happening to them, afraid to protest and punished if they did.

I found this photo deeply moving as well as disturbing. This man, who is waiting to be transported on the day of assembly, looks so lost to me.

In the camp, elderly men often crouched outside in the shade in warm weather, and by the barracks heater in the winter. There was little for them to do but wait - and, I imagine, wonder what the hell had happened to them.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Memorializing California's Role in WWII

I'm no stranger to Washington, D.C. - in fact I lived nearby for a few months in the eighties - and over the years I've enjoyed several visits to the National Mall. I was with my own kids, and another family, when I first saw the World War II memorial, which was built in 2004. 

I returned to it last year with my daughter....

...and sought out the pillar representing California. 

It's a beautiful memorial, both welcoming and sober, formal without being cold. It got me thinking about memorials closer to home.

This is the West Coast World War II memorial, located in the Presidio on the coast of San Francisco, about 45 minutes from where I live. It was dedicated in 1960, when the war was still fresh in people's minds, overlooking the Pacific ocean.

I don't know how many of the 442nd Battalion - 14,000 volunteers of Japanese descent from Hawaii and those interned in mainland camps - died in the war. I do know that they were awarded 21 Medals of Honor and 9,486 Purple Hearts, and that their motto was "Go for Broke." They were the most decorated unit to serve in the history of American warfare , and were lauded by President Roosevelt for their bravery.

A veterans organization taking its name from the 442nd's motto built a monument to them in the Little Tokyo area of L.A. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Shopping for Characters

I spent a beautiful afternoon in one of my favorite places, Mountainview Cemetery, shopping for character names.

I already had the main characters' names picked out (they range from the boring Rob Cole to the somewhat more interesting Zandra Francesci) but I had a half dozen secondary characters who needed monikers.

I love this fellow's name, but I don't think I'll use it:

Arthur W. Goodenough, 1894-1951

Here's a view of the patch I was browsing - you can see the graves flat on the ground in the foreground. (I was in the mood for these more modest stones rather than the intricate and interesting ones today.)

I ended up with just the right ones, I think.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Was I Entitled to Write This Book?

When GARDEN OF STONES was still in the proposal stage (it was titled MUSEUM OF EYES at that time), my editor Adam Wilson was put in the position of defending it in an acquisitions meeting.

(Adam, as I've mentioned before, worked on the early draft of the book before his career took him elsewhere and Erika Imranyi took over. Thus, STONES has the distinction of being shaped by two extraordinary editors and a very smart editorial assistant named Leonore Waldrip.)

In this long-ago meeting, someone asked whether I - a middle-aged white woman from the midwest - was qualified to write from the point of view of a Japanese American.

It's a good question, and while I'll confess to a momentary defensive knee-jerk reaction (something along the lines of "because it's my fucking book, and nobody tells me what I can and can't do with my words") it deserves a thoughtful answer.

I'll be the first to admit that I cannot imagine what it was like to be Japanese-American in the 1940s. I'll go you one better; until a few years ago, I didn't know the first thing about internment, and had given about zero thought to what it must have been like to be Japanese during the war. In fact, I grew up knowing exactly one Japanese-American person, and to be honest I didn't know that he was Japanese descent at the time because, frankly, when I was a kid all Asian (actually, we used to say "oriental") people were the same to me.

Ironically, it's this last point which, I think, might "qualify" me to have written the book I did. I knew nothing. It takes courage to admit my ignorance now, and I'm ashamed of it. A blond blue-eyed sturdy midwesterner among many, it had never occurred to me to wonder what others felt or experienced. So when I began STONES, though I had of course learned a lot in the intervening years, I brought a relatively clean slate with me. Let me be clear: STONES is not an apology or an attempt to right a personal wrong. It's just the most vivid box that I personally was able to build to hold my feelings and reactions as I learned about this chapter of American history.

The constitution defends my right to write anything I want, so the argument takes place well in the gray area of what is "tasteful" or ethically defensible. But I'm an author. NOT a historian or a subject matter expert, so I'm immune to those who might try to prove that I don't know "enough" about the subject (because they're right: I don't and never will). I'm a story teller, and on this go-round I loaded up my palette with a whole new set of paints - pigments drawn from history and the accounts of those who lived it - and did my best.

I came across a more elegant defense of an author's rights in this review of THE NEWLYWEDS by
 Nell Freudenberger. The review is by Mohsin Hamid and it ran in the New York Times last April.  In part, Hamid says:

"At stake here isn’t — or shouldn’t be — the question of authenticity, which is a red herring: nationalities, ethnicities, genders and even species do not “own” the right to fictional narratives spoken in what purport to be their voices. Such a proposition, taken to its logical extreme, would reduce fiction to autobiography, and while fiction may well be alive and kicking in the belly of many an auto­biography, to confine fiction solely to that domain would be madness."

Thursday, February 14, 2013

brand-spankin-new re-iussue of AFTERTIME!

A much-anticipated box arrived yesterday from the nice folks at the Harlequin Distribution Center (hi Jessica!!!) - the mass market re-issue of AFTERTIME, which is going on sale on March 26.

This cover is so damn gorgeous - you really have to see it in person, the orange and turquoise really just pop off the cover. The only thing that would have made it better is if Idris Elba carried the box up the stairs...perhaps if he was wearing a UPS uniform that was just a little too snug around the biceps...(Barbara, you're still working on that, right?)

Anyway, not to be crude or anything (although I suppose that ship may have already sailed, despite the fact it's not even 7am here on the west coast) but now that it's in mass market, this book's a bargain. Pre-order here to get your very own :)

Still Life, with Hyacinth - couldn't resist :)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Lesser-Known Tragedies of Internment

With the release of GARDEN OF STONES only two weeks away, I plan to begin sharing some of the research that captivated me while I wrote the book.

Even a cursory reading of the history of Japanese-Americans in WWII will acquaint you with the basic horrors of internment: the forced dislocation, the derision and prejudice, the loss of property and liberty, the harsh conditions of the camps.

As I researched the book, I found some lesser-known images that are all the more poignant when you consider they are at risk of being lost to history.

It's widely known that many of the internees were tenant farmers (the laws forbid them from owning land outright, though some had entered into complex arrangements with neighbors and town leaders to circumvent this prohibition). SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS addresses this issue.

What's lost, I think, when you don't see the images is the sense that these were people's homes. Not just their jobs, but the acres that they worked every day, that they took immense pride in, that they had expected to work for their entire lives and possibly pass down.

Below, a farmer and his daughter say a final farewell to their strawberry farm.

It wasn't just the land, of course, but the houses people called home. I read several heartbreaking accounts of children returning to their old neighborhoods to find their homes inhabited by strangers. Look at this beautiful farm house, below; wisteria hangs above its porch. The family out front knows it will soon be leaving. 

The photographic record is only part of the evidence of the art created by internees. Below, an artist paints a mural in Manzanar. I don't know if it still exists, but I saw other paintings and drawings created by internees. But many of these people had left behind studios and careers that they would never re-establish.

School take place in the camp after the first few chaotic months. The government supplied a curriculum, and churches donated items like textbooks and supplies. The furniture, however, was made by internees from whatever lumber and scrap they could find, and projects like these were conceived and executed by volunteers within the camp. If the volunteers hadn't worked so hard on behalf of the children, their education would have been severely stunted.

What's remarkable to me about this high school dance, which took place in the Manzanar rec hall, is how fiercely the teens follow American styles. They were extraordinarily patriotic, and their taste in fashion, music, and culture was the same as teens everywhere. This is not to say that they were ashamed of their heritage, they just identified with the country of their citizenship.

When the internees were eventually released, it did not mean an end to prejudice and injustice. Many returned home to scenes like this - even those who had served in the 442nd regiment. They were denied housing and jobs, and the government - which considered its job done - did little to help.

Monday, February 11, 2013


I listen to music as I write. I try to choose music that suits the characters. At times I've listened to artists I don't care for personally, just to put myself in mind of the story.

Writing GARDEN OF STONES, which is set in both the 40s and the 70s, I faced a quandary. I don't really love the popular music from either of these eras.

Instead I looked for music about internment. I came up with a few examples:

1. Fort Minor's "Kenji" - this kicked off a monthlong Fort Minor binge. Since Mike Shinoda only put out one album, I eventually got a little fatigued with overplay, but I really like his stuff.

Give this one a listen - it features the voices of internees:

2. Hiroshima's "Manzanar" - I guess I'll admit that I pretty much loathe smooth jazz except for once in a great while...but I guess I'll make an exception for this one:

3. Tom Russell's "Manzanar" - this was an easy one for me since Tom Russell's a favorite of mine.

Last year, George Takei (yes, the Star Trek guy!) produced a musical called "Allegiance" about the internment experience. I'd love to see it.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Windfall!

In a week or so I'm going to get down to brass tacks (I love that expression, something my mother used to say), in advance of the release of GARDEN OF STONES. I've written some posts about various aspects of Japanese internment and the evolution of the book, that I am excited to share with you.

For now, though, I'm still feeling a little punch-drunk and silly from an intense revision bender, so don't expect a whole lot of wisdom from this corner.

It's royalty season (not as in pregnant princesses, but book royalties!) and I received a plumper check than I expected from one of my publishers. Hurray and thank you!

It is common knowledge that one must spend a little of any unexpected windfall on frippery for oneself and one's loved ones. So:

For me, the latest beauty miracle product from Sephora, where i played with all the makeup samples and sprayed myself with three kinds of perfume.

For Dog, a new li'l buddy.

...and for my sweet son, the kind of crap I usually refuse to buy.

How about you guys? Dying to know what you did with your latest windfall!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

SF in SF - This Saturday!

Hey, do you have plans Saturday? No? I'd love to see you at SF in SF, Science Fiction in San Francisco. I'm celebrating the re-release of my AFTERTIME series, and I'll be speaking with Matt Richtel, so it should be pretty lively. Doors (and cash bar) open at 6 and the event begins at 7. The organizers warn that you should take BART, as the parking's terrible.

my new cover! - out march 26th
Variety Preview Room Theatre
The Hobart Bldg., 1st Floor — entrance next to Citibank on Market St.
582 Market Street @ 2nd and Montgomery
San Francisco, CA 94104

** more details below**

SF in SF - Science Fiction - San Francisco - A Perfect Fit
Sponsored by Tachyon Publications - Saving the world, one good book at a time
All proceeds benefit Variety Children's Charity of Northern California
Follow us on twitter at #sfinsfevents - Join our Meetup.com group too, at SFinSFEvents!
Bringing quality science fiction & fantasy authors & films to the Bay Area since 2005



Doors and cash bar opens at 6:00PM
Event begins at 7:00PM
Suggested $5-$10 donation at the door benefits Variety Children's Charity of Northern California

Join us tonight for two local authors, and some thrilling science and history on tap for our event.  We are featuring New York Times, and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Matt Richtel, who also writes the Rudy Park comics, and novelist Sophie Littlefield, who has racked up nominations for the Edgar, Macavity, Barry, and Crimespree awards, and won the Anthony Award for her work, and shines in both adult and young adult fiction. Each will be reading a selection from their new work, followed by Q&A with the audience, moderated by author Terry Bisson. Booksigning and schmoozing follows in the lounge, with books for sale courtesy of Borderlands Books.  Podcasting courtesy of Rick Kleffel, The Agony Column.  Seating is limited; first come, first seated.

MATT RICHTEL is a novelist, cartoonist and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the New York Times based in the San Francisco. He writes about technology, its impact on society, and how it changes the way we how we work, play, and relate to each other. His 2010 series, ‘Our Brain On Computers‘ focuses on how constant use of our devices impacts not only our behavior but our thought processes and even our neurology. His 2009 series about the dangers of multitasking while driving won the Pulitzer for national reporting.  Richtel's first novel, Hooked, was a national bestseller; its sequel, Devil’s Plaything, and the new, third, book, The Cloud, will be available for sale at the event.  In his spare time, he writes the syndicated daily comic strip “Rudy Park.” The strip, launched in 2001, revolves around the lives of regular patrons at an Internet cafe.  Richtel lives in San Francisco.

To learn more about Matt Richtel, please visit his website at www.mattrichtel.com
's first novel A Bad Day for Sorry, featured Stella Hardesty, a rural Missouri housewife-turned-vigilante. Since then, three more "A Bad Day for..." books have appeared, and her other series for adults, the zombie apocalypse Aftertime series (Aftertime, Survivors, Rebirth, and Horizon -- "Rebirth is part The Walking Dead, part The Road, and part something totally new and engrossing."  —All Things Urban Fantasy), and her young adult science fictional novels Unforsaken and Banished ("An intense thriller of life-and-death proportions." —Booklist), have catapulted her into the premier ranks of today's fiction authors.  Her new novel, Garden of Stones, is in bookstore this February.

To learn more about Sophie Littlefield, please visit her website at www.sophielittlefield.com

For more information, email me at sfinsfevents@gmail.com
Phone night of event - 415.572.1015

Friday, February 1, 2013

STONES *photo op*!!!

I received this today in my inbox from a rather special, uh, fan.

Can you guess who these two super-humanly adorable humans are? Leave a comment and/or make a guess - I'll draw a random commenter Monday and send you an arc of GARDEN OF STONES!