A Juneteenth Excerpt


In honor of Juneteenth, I am re-posting a previous blog entry:

Yesterday was Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating the abolition of slavery. I wrote a short story about my two of my favorite RED KIMONO characters, Sachi and Jubie, where they each learn about a holiday that holds special meaning for each other’s culture.

In “The Butterfly’s Song,” Jubie invites Sachi to come to church with her to celebrate Juneteenth. In turn, Sachi invites Jubie to come to Obon, a Japanese dance festival which honors the spirits of one’s ancestors. Sachi is Buddhist and has never been to a Baptist church before. Some of this comes from my own experience, where my mother is Buddhist and my father is Baptist.

# # #

 

A caterpillar
Crept timid along her path
Until she grew wings

Why had Sachiko agreed to come with Jubie? At first, she thought it would be fun, since she’d only been to Buddhist churches in California. But here she sat at a Baptist church in Arkansas, stuck on the hard pew between Jubie and Mrs. Franklin. She’d never felt so out of place—like the single white hair her mother had pulled out of her long, black strands the day before. Oh, these folks were all friendly enough. Still, every once in awhile she caught someone staring like she didn’t belong.

Maybe she didn’t. She should have stayed where she felt safe—behind the barbed wire at the Rohwer Internment Camp. Juneteenth was clearly not a celebration for white people, and certainly not for the Japanese.

She remembered laying in the sunshine by the creek a few days before, when Jubie had asked her to come.

“Juneteenth?” Sachi had asked. “I’ve never heard of that.”

Jubie stared up at the sky. “‘Course not. You ain’t a Negro.”

“It’s just for Negros?”

“Yeah. To celebrate the end of slavery. Emancipation, Ma calls it. Guess there ain’t no need for white folk to celebrate that one.” She pointed at the sky. “Hey, don’t that cloud look like a big dragon?”

“I guess.” Sachi wasn’t interested in a dragon cloud. Instead, her mind wandered back to her classroom, where she’d learned about slavery. Back then, it was only something on a page in a history book. But talking to Jubie, suddenly it was real. “Do you know any slaves?” she asked.

Jubie rolled her eyes and giggled. “‘Course I don’t know no slaves. Slavery don’t exist no more. But my Great Granddaddy used to be one. He was Auntie Bess’s daddy. I was only six when he died, but I still remember him talking about being a slave. Alls I know is, I’s sure glad it got abolished—Ma says that means got rid of—before I came along.”

“Must be awful to hear about your own family having slaves.” Sachi tossed a pebble into the creek, trying to think of something happier. “Hey. You know what? We have our own celebration, too. It’s called Obon, when we honor our dead relatives.”

“Dead folk? That don’t sound like something to celebrate.”

“We don’t celebrate the dead. We honor them. We get together with our families and dance and eat a whole lot of food.”

“Sounds kinda like Juneteenth. So, you wanna come?”

“If you’ll come to Obon—in August.” Sachi held out her hand. “Deal?”

Jubie took Sachi’s hand. “Deal.”

Watch for the Kindle release soon!

This entry was posted in Excerpt, Japanese Culture, Prejudice and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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