So Far From the Bamboo Grove by Yoko Kawashima Watkins (Beech Tree, 1986)
A moving journey of the Kawashima family as they try to evade being captured by the Communists. So Far From the Bamboo Grove is a great retelling of Yoko, her mother and her sister Ko as they struggle to make it from their home in Korea back to their Japanese homeland. The strength that these women show while battling nature, human kind and their own personal demons is truly inspiring.
As I was reading this book I was extremely moved. During my junior year of high school, I spent the whole year in Osaka, Japan. I am familiar with the Japanese/American relationships (or lack there of) that occurred during World War II. I was not however familiar with the comings and goings of the Japanese/Korean/Russian relations that were occurring at the same time. I was lucky enough to visit the cities of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Tokyo to see the pain and devastation that happened during that horrible time in our worlds history. Yes, as an American I was outraged at Japan's eagerness to include us in the war even when we vowed to stay out. But now, after I have read Ms. Watkins, I see that we all were facing danger during that time. I admire her for being so candid as to what she experienced. It takes courage to speak of such a difficult time in ones life.
So Far From the Bamboo Grove would serve as an excellent book when discussing the complexities of what led to the travesties that occurred during World War II. So many lives were displaced by the decisions of so few, it is a topic that needs to be discussed. This book was a very quick read and offers an insight into the plight of the Japanese toward the end of the war that I was not familiar with.
Intended audience: Fourth through high school