Unfortunately, our country has a history of discrimination. During World War Two, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, Japanese-Americans were targeted. Out of fear, the United States government had those on the west coast sent to internment camps. Even though many of them were American citizens, they had to evacuate their homes, sell their belongings, and leave their businesses and friends.
Under the Silk Hibiscus, my sixth novel, is a story of such a time as this. The main character, Nathan, tells his saga through his fifteen-year-old eyes when he and his family were sent to Heart Mountain, Wyoming. As he grows older, we continue to hear, not only about life in the camp where his family lived until the war ended, but about life after the war when they returned to their hometown of San Jose, California and tried to rebuild their lives.
Early the next morning before faint sunlight crept through our billet’s slats, Aunt Kazuo screamed. “The baby is coming! The baby! Somebody help us!”
Ken wasn’t in our barracks. His cot was empty, untouched; in fact, both the pillow and wool army blankets were still in place as though he hadn’t slept there at all.
As usual, it was going to be up to me. I scrambled out of my own cot. One of my blankets fell onto the floor. From the back of a wicker chair, I pulled off a checkered shirt and then grabbed a pair of trousers that were in a heap at the foot of my bed. Once dressed, I worked my feet into my shoes and looked for my jacket. I didn’t wait for Aunt Kazuo to tell me not to dilly-dally. Sprinting toward the clinic, the frosty autumn air didn’t bother me.
By the time I reached the clinic, my face was damp from sweat. The main door was locked. I banged on it; I had to get a doctor.
Mekley, one of the uniformed soldiers assigned to the camp, appeared from the clinic’s vicinity. “What in tarnation are you doing?” he cried.
“I need a doctor.”
“Well, I need a million dollars.” He spoke with a drawl. Everybody told me it was southern. I didn’t know for sure. I’d never heard a southern accent before. I just knew that he was ornery. That characteristic had nothing to do with accents.
“I need a good woman too.” He winked, but it wasn’t a wink like Ken’s; it made me feel dirty to have witnessed it. “Know where I can find one?” he asked.
Thirst cloaked my throat and I tried to swallow to ease the dryness. Mama needed help and it was up to me. “Where’s the doctor? Where’s Doctor . . . ?” My mind suddenly became like a boarded-up window. What was the doctor’s name from San Jose? “Yamagata.”
“Ya-ma-ga-ta?” He said, drawing the surname out like it was a piece of taffy, the kind you got at the fair. “What happened that you need a doctor?”
“My mother’s having a baby.”
He grinned. “A baby, huh? Another one?”
I wasn’t sure what he meant by that. I knocked on the door again and then heard a strong and familiar voice from behind. “Are you looking for me?”
Turning around, I tasted relief. Dr. Yamagata stood before me, a Dunlap hat on his head.
“You have to come. My mother is in labor.”
“Can’t she come to the hospital like all the other mamas?” asked Mekley.
Under the Silk Hibiscus will make her debut on Veteran's Day, November 11---an appropriate date.
Under the Silk Hibiscus can be pre-ordered on Amazon.