YA historical fiction
"They didn't have to tell each other why. They knew what a
friend Billy Yamada had been to Oki. But Yuki also thought of what
Billy had lost. The war had taken away his chance to go to college,
to be a star football player. Yuki had heard people use the phrase
'lost his life' but he had never thought what it meant. Billy
wouldn't have a chance to be the man he was going to be.
Don't think about it, Yuki told himself. You can't think about
Yuki, protagonist of Dean Hughes, Four-Four-Two, can't afford to
let himself think about his friend who was killed in battle. Fighting
in the Europeon Theater of World War II, he and his fellow soldiers
are engaged in the grim task of running through barrages of enemy fire
to capture hills that are German strongholds. And he's taking this
huge risk for a nation that sees him as an alien threat, knowing that
no matter how hard and loyally he and his fellow Japanese Americans
fight, those who survive will return to second class status in their
Before reading Four-Four-Two I had no idea that during World War
II there was an all Nisei (Japanese-American) unit that was the most
decorated unit in this nation's history. About half of them received
Purple Hearts. They also has a disproportionately high mortality rate.
America entered World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
We were at war with the Axis powers: Japan, Germany, and Italy.
While German and Italian Americans suspected of treason were dealt
with on a case by case basis, over 110,000 Japanese and Japanese
Americans, never accused of or tried for any crime, were removed en
masse from their homes and incarcerated in camps surrounded by barbed-
wire fences, shot by guards if they attempted to escape or got too
near the fence. For many draft age sons in the camps, serving in the
military seemed to be a way to show their loyalty to their country.
Narrator Yukus and his best friend, Shigeo, are fictional characters
created to represent these men.
Although the racism of the time is a crucial element of the
story, one of the themes of this coming of age narrative goes beyond
race, nationality, and era.
"Yuki tried to think what the word meant. Honor. He had
thought he'd known when he had joined the army. Now he only knew that
he couldn't let his friends down. He had to fight for them, and he
expected them to fight for him. Nations didn't go to war. Men did.
Boys did. The trouble was, defending his friends meant killing the
boys from some other nation: boys he actually had nothing against..."
Four-Four-Two should be required reading for all people
contemplating military enlistments.
On a personal note, writing class is going along swimmingly. I
presented a future op ed piece on ageism and a set of poems. Both
were received enthusiastically. Sadly there is only one more class
for this session.
A great big shout out goes out to all who who participate in this
group, especially the refreshment bringers.
Sent from my iPod