|My mother, Age 8|
I’m not sure why, but I’d hesitated to ask my mom to read the manuscript for The Red Kimono. One might think that strange, since she is the inspiration for my character, Sachiko Kimura. Sachi is how I imagine my mom to have been as an 9-year old Japanese American girl struggling with her identity through her family’s internment during World War II.
So why did I hesitate? These are some of the things I feared:
1) The story would bring back painful memories of that time in her life.
2) Though some of the story is based on fact, most of it is fictionalized. I was concerned she would take offense that the story was not as it had been in “real life.”
3) Mom is not a big reader, and I didn’t want to pressure her to read a full manuscript.
Through the four years it has taken me to write The Red Kimono, I have talked to Mom about it; asked questions about what happened during those years and filled her in on some of the chapters. But only recently did I load a .pdf file on her iPad so she could read it.
To be honest, I thought it would sit on her iPad, unread.
But a few days later, my sister called me and said, “Mom has not taken her nose out of your story. I finally had to tell her she needed to take a break or her neck would start bothering her.”
I was thrilled. Though many have told me they’ve enjoyed the story, to have my own mother — who lived through those years and who is not a “big reader” — read it and be unable to put it down means the world to me.
One day, I went to visit her. When I walked in to her bedroom, I found her with iPad in hand, so engrossed in the story she hardly noticed me. She’d been taking notes about how I could improve the intricacies of the Japanese culture in the story — something I could not have gotten from anyone else who has read the manuscript.
And my mom is smart as a whip. Dozens of people have read or heard the chapter in the story where Sachiko is stacking rocks on a fence post at Rohwer, one stone on top of another. It was something Papa taught her once — a way to calm herself when she was troubled. Only my mother caught that there was no way Sachiko could have reached the top of the fence post at Rohwer.
That’s because my mother was there. She was really there, from 1942-1945 . . . in the internment camps at Topaz and Tule Lake. She knew precisely how tall those fence posts were.
|My mother with her mother|