Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Bridging the Gaps
Like Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves is the story of an interracial couple living on the West Coast of America during World War II. In Hotel, the couple consisted of tweenagers, one Chinese and one Japanese, but both American nonetheless. In Bridge, the couple is a little older, and is made up of a Japanese American man, and a Caucasian American woman, Lane and Maddie. Lane and Maddie get married against their families' wishes, on the day before Pearl Harbor is bombed. Instantly, Lane and his family are targeted as enemies. Shortly thereafter, they are uprooted and moved to an internment camp.
In Hotel, the internment camp is painted as being a pretty nice place, given the circumstances, and the perspective of a young girl. Bridge tells a more historically accurate story, conceding that due to the hostility of other Americans, the Japanese at times may have felt safer within the camps, while still portraying the camps as a place where a person would want not to be. The idea of a white American choosing to live in a camp in order to remain with her spouse, even with the sparse accommodations and tense atmosphere, was an interesting twist, about which little has been written.
Bridge also tells the story of American and Japanese soldiers fighting at the Pacific front. Maddie's brother, TJ, and Lane both enlist in the army, but they have different opportunities based on their races and the prejudices of those around them, both friend and foe. Eventually another character is introduced who is an American born man who found himself in Japan on the December 7, 1941, was not permitted to go back to America, and was forced to enlist in the Japanese army. These three men make tough choices and realize that while they need to look out for themselves, sometimes there are risks worth taking.
All told, if you liked Hotel, but would prefer a little more action, Bridge is the book for you. The author, McMorris, is half Japanese herself, and meticulously researched the story. Bridge is a great book, and a fast read. As an added bonus, McMorris includes a number of Asian fusion recipes after the story ends. The recipes are a combination of Western and Japanese dishes, including Wasabi Mashed Potatoes, which I just have to try.
In the interest of full disclosure, Tyson Cornell of Rare Bird Lit asked me to review this book, and sent me a free copy. I promised him that I would read the book and write about it, and nothing more. Really, Bridge deserves all of the praise that I have given it. It's just my kind of book.
Next up: The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond
Still Listening to: Russian Debutante's Handbook by Gary Shteyngart