I was born in the final year of World War II. Mom's parents and sister were interned at Rohwer in southern Arkansas. Dad was a GI training Japanese-American translators. Hiroshima was Dad's hometown. His mother and sister survived the atomic bomb.

My childhood was a puzzle-- starting with kindergarten in Grant Heights, just north of Tokyo. An all-American town, complete with miniature white picket fences, where the supermarket was called PX and the surrounding landscape of green and golden rice fields was dotted with low small bowl-perfect hills, each hiding a domed cave in which farmers stored tools and rice. Mom scolded me for playing there, said the hills were old bomb shelters, but never explained what that meant. I spent summer vacations at Grandma’s house in Hiroshima, 2.5 miles from ground zero. Sometimes in dreams I am still that boy standing at the wire fence that separated Grant Heights from Grandma and Aunt Chizuko and all the others who looked like me, but were called Japanese Nationals, while I was a Japanese-American.

I waited years until I was old enough to ask the right questions and to hear the stories the adults would never share with children. I did not choose these stories, I was born into them.  And they shaped me, just as my novel, Color of the Sea, developed out of the puzzle pieces of my family history.

 

Image: Hamamura-Author-tsunami
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