We knew of them at the time, but we did not know them for what they were—acts of national ruthlessness for which Pearl Harbor was no excuse. Only popular hysteria explains the banishment of more than 20,000 Japanese-Canadians (and more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans) to detention camps during World War ll.

Requiem covers this shameful chapter in North American history with clear-eyed historical accuracy. Forcibly removed to transport boats, young Bin Okuma and his family watch helplessly as their former neighbors loot their homes. One hundred miles from the “Protected Zone,” they are dumped on unsettled lands and forced to fend for themselves until the end of the war. It is here that Bin’s “First Father” gives him away to another man who has no son.

Fifty-some years later, Bin Okuma impulsively takes off with his dog Basil (a welcome light note) to revisit the location of his five-year detention, and to deal with the unspoken issues of his boyhood. His adoptive father Okuma-san is gone, but his First Father is still alive. At the abandoned camp, they meet again, and pride crumbles beneath the shared need of their relationship.

Frances Itani, a prizewinner for her previous book, Deafening, writes with a delicate grasp of both the obvious and the unspoken, using ordinary words charged with extraordinary meaning to produce a serious book that nevertheless invites you to keep reading past midnight. In the end, Requiem promises healing out of drowning hopelessness.

comments powered by Disqus