My friend, Madison Woods, told me about the A to Z Blogging Challenge and I was intrigued. I decided to try to do 26 blog posts with each letter of the alphabet representing something about my just-released historical fiction, The Red Kimono.
So, here is my first post:
Letter A for Arkansas
Arkansas. What does that have to do with The Red Kimono? When I first began writing down the story that had floated around in my head since I was a child, I didn’t realize there had been two Japanese American internment camps in Arkansas. My mother was an internee at Tule Lake, California and at Topaz, Utah. So, I thought all of the internment camps that held approximately 120,000 persons of Japanese decent (60% were Americans) were on the west coast.
I was wrong. In fact, I later found out that one of my own aunts and her family were internees in Arkansas, and that they’d been sent by train, taking only what they could carry from California to Arkansas.
They wore this tag as required by the United States government:
Finding out about the Rohwer and Jerome internment camps in southeast Arkansas changed the story I eventually told in The Red Kimono. From September 1942 through November 1945, these two camps housed approximately 16,000 internees and based on population, were the 3rd and 4th largest cities in Arkansas.
Changing the location of the camp from West Coast camps to the Arkansas camps gave me the ability to add Jubie Lee Franklin, a young local black girl who befriends Sachi. This friendship is a major theme in the book.
A few years ago, I visited the site of Rohwer as research for my book. There, in the sound of the wind that rustled through the trees, I heard Sachi whisper a few secrets that also changed my story. (Click here to read.)
On April 16, I will be attending a dedication for the Jerome-Rohwer Interpretive Museum and Visitor Center, located in the train depot where many Japanese Americans arrived in Arkansas from California.
And as I walk around viewing the exhibits, I’ll be listening for secrets Sachi and Jubie may whisper to me again.
EXCERPT: The following excerpt takes place when Sachi gets off the train and is about to enter Rohwer Internment Camp near McGehee, Arkansas.