December 7, 2016, marks the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. In honor of National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, we’ve put together a list of historical fiction novels that feature the people impacted by the event, including those involved in the actual attack and internment camp prisoners. Publishers’ descriptions included below.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
In the opening pages of Jamie Ford’s stunning debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Henry Lee comes upon a crowd gathered outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle’s Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made an incredible discovery: the belongings of Japanese families, left when they were rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II. As Henry looks on, the owner opens a Japanese parasol.
This simple act takes old Henry Lee back to the 1940s, at the height of the war, when young Henry’s world is a jumble of confusion and excitement, and to his father, who is obsessed with the war in China and having Henry grow up American. While “scholarshipping” at the exclusive Rainier Elementary, where the white kids ignore him, Henry meets Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American student. Amid the chaos of blackouts, curfews, and FBI raids, Henry and Keiko forge a bond of friendship — and innocent love — that transcends the long-standing prejudices of their Old World ancestors. And after Keiko and her family are swept up in the evacuations to the internment camps, she and Henry are left only with the hope that the war will end, and that their promise to each other will be kept.
Forty years later, Henry Lee is certain that the parasol belonged to Keiko. In the hotel’s dark dusty basement he begins looking for signs of the Okabe family’s belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot begin to measure. Now a widower, Henry is still trying to find his voice — words that might explain the actions of his nationalistic father; words that might bridge the gap between him and his modern, Chinese American son; words that might help him confront the choices he made many years ago.
Set during one of the most conflicted and volatile times in American history, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an extraordinary story of commitment and enduring hope. In Henry and Keiko, Jamie Ford has created an unforgettable duo whose story teaches us of the power of forgiveness and the human heart.
The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende
From New York Times bestselling author Isabel Allende, “a magical and sweeping” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) love story and multigenerational epic that stretches from San Francisco in the present-day to Poland and the United States during World War II.
In 1939, as Poland falls under the shadow of the Nazis, young Alma Belasco’s parents send her away to live in safety with an aunt and uncle in their opulent mansion in San Francisco. There, as the rest of the world goes to war, she encounters Ichimei Fukuda, the quiet and gentle son of the family’s Japanese gardener. Unnoticed by those around them, a tender love affair begins to blossom. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the two are cruelly pulled apart as Ichimei and his family — like thousands of other Japanese Americans — are declared enemies and forcibly relocated to internment camps run by the United States government. Throughout their lifetimes, Alma and Ichimei reunite again and again, but theirs is a love that they are forever forced to hide from the world.
Decades later, Alma is nearing the end of her long and eventful life. Irina Bazili, a care worker struggling to come to terms with her own troubled past, meets the elderly woman and her grandson, Seth, at San Francisco’s charmingly eccentric Lark House nursing home. As Irina and Seth forge a friendship, they become intrigued by a series of mysterious gifts and letters sent to Alma, eventually learning about Ichimei and this extraordinary secret passion that has endured for nearly seventy years.
Sweeping through time and spanning generations and continents, The Japanese Lover is written with the same keen understanding of her characters that Isabel Allende has been known for since her landmark first novel The House of the Spirits. The Japanese Lover is a moving tribute to the constancy of the human heart in a world of unceasing change.
A Boy at War by Harry Mazer
December 7, 1941:
On a quiet Sunday morning, while Adam and his friends are fishing near Honolulu, a surprise attack by Japanese bombers destroys the fleet at Pearl Harbor.
Even as Adam struggles to survive the sudden chaos all around him, and as his friends endure the brunt of the attack, a greater concern hangs over his head: Adam’s father, a navy lieutenant, was stationed on the USS Arizona when the bombs fell. During the subsequent days Adam — not yet a man, but no longer a boy — is caught up in the war as he desperately tries to make sense of what happened to his friends and to find news of his father.
Harry Mazer, whose autobiographical novel, The Last Mission, brought the European side of World War II to vivid life, now turns to the Pacific theater and how the impact of war can alter young lives forever.
When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
On a sunny day in Berkeley, California, in 1942, a woman sees a sign in a post office window, returns to her home, and matter-of-factly begins to pack her family’s possessions. Like thousands of other Japanese Americans they have been reclassified, virtually overnight, as enemy aliens and are about to be uprooted from their home and sent to a dusty internment camp in the Utah desert.
In this lean and devastatingly evocative first novel, Julie Otsuka tells their story from five flawlessly realized points of view and conveys the exact emotional texture of their experience: the thin-walled barracks and barbed-wire fences, the omnipresent fear and loneliness, the unheralded feats of heroism. When the Emperor Was Divine is a work of enormous power that makes a shameful episode of our history as immediate as today’s headlines.
The Winds of War by Herman Wouk
The Great Novel of America’s “Greatest Generation” Herman Wouk’s sweeping epic of World War II, which begins with The Winds of War and continues in War and Remembrance, stands as the crowning achievement of one of America’s most celebrated storytellers. Like no other books about the war, Wouk’s spellbinding narrative captures the tide of global events — and all the drama, romance, heroism, and tragedy of World War II — as it immerses us in the lives of a single American family drawn into the very center of the war’s maelstrom.
The Magic of Ordinary Days by Ann Howard Creel
Olivia Dunne, a studious minister’s daughter who dreams of being an archaeologist, never thought that the drama of World War II would affect her quiet life in Denver. An exhilarating flirtation reshapes her life, though, and she finds herself banished to a rural Colorado outpost, married to a man she hardly knows. Overwhelmed by loneliness, Olivia tentatively tries to establish a new life, finding much-needed friendship and solace in two Japanese American sisters who are living at a nearby internment camp. When Olivia unwittingly becomes an accomplice to a crime and is faced with betrayal, she finally confronts her own desires. Beautifully written and filled with memorable characters, Creel’s novel is a powerful exploration of the nature of trust and love.
From Here to Eternity by James Jones
At the Pearl Harbor army base in 1941, Robert E. Lee Prewitt is Uncle Sam’s finest bugler. A career soldier with no patience for army politics, Prewitt becomes incensed when a commander’s favorite wins the title of First Bugler. His indignation results in a transfer to an infantry unit whose commander is less interested in preparing for war than he is in boxing. But when Prewitt refuses to join the company team, the commander and his sergeant decide to make the bugler’s life hell.
An American classic now available with scenes and dialogue considered unfit for publication in the 1950s, From Here to Eternity is a stirring picture of army life in the months leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Which of these books do you plan to read? Let us know in the comments!
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