Nagai, Mariko. Dust of Eden.
4Q * 4P * M * J
Nagai, Mariko. Dust of Eden. Albert Whitman, 2014. 128p. $16.99. 978-0-8075-1739-0.
Thirteen-year-old Mina Masako Tagawa is a Japanese-American girl living a happy life in Seattle with her mother, father, grandfather, and older brother, Nick, until that fateful day in December 1941. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Mina's father is imprisoned for no reason, and she is hurt and confused to see that Japanese Americans have become the enemy, spat upon and stung with taunts of "Jap." Their family is one of thousands forced to "evacuate," first to a temporary relocation center and then to an internment camp in Idaho, where living conditions are as bleak as the landscape: long lines, bugs, unappetizing food, and holes in the ground that serve as toilets. Each family member copes differently with imprisonment. Mina writes letters to her father and her best friend back home; her mother focuses on work; Nick's anger hangs above him like "dark clouds;" and her grandfather is determined to grow roses in the inhospitable climate. Eventually Mina's father rejoins them, a weary and changed man. The family's anguish grows when Nick decides to prove his patriotism by enlisting in the military.
Although war, imprisonment, and loss weigh heavily on the Tagawa family during their three years of internment, like the roses the grandfather successfully tends, their story is one of hope and resilience. This poignant, first-person narrative written in verse moves quickly, employing simple language and strong imagery to illuminate a shadowed period in American history. Nagai deftly conveys Mina's struggle for identity and her conflicting emotions at the betrayal of her beloved country. This would be a solid addition to the WWII section of any school or classroom library.--Cathy Fiebelkorn.