Thursday Book Feature: Novel Depicts World War II Racism

Tallgrass: A Novel
by Sandra Dallas
Copyright 2007

In this fictional account of events during World War Ii, an internment camp for evacuated Japanese-American citizens is established in a small Colorado town. Rennie, a thirteen-year-old girl living on her family’s farm adjacent to the camp, tells the story of how these evacuees were transported to the camp and the townspeople’s mixed reactions to their presence. Despite suspicion that one of the camp’s inmates murdered a local girl, Rennie and her family stand up for what’s right.

Her father hires some of the boys to work on the farm. Her mother, skeptical at first, is forced to employ a couple of Japanese girls to help her in the house when she becomes ill. Other sub-plots include Rennie’s brother serving overseas, her best friend, the murdered girl’s sister, and one of the Japanese girls helping in the house. In the acknowledgements at the beginning, the author explains what inspired her to write the book. At the end, she provides historical information and discussion questions for reading groups.

Because I’m not proud of how we treated Japanese-American citizens in the wake of Pearl Harbor, I wouldn’t have read this, but my regional talking book library’s discussion group chose it, so what could I say? I like the way the author tells the story from Rennie’s first person point of view and how she places the girl in situations where she shouldn’t have been in order for her to gleam more of the story. I felt a connection to the setting because my late husband grew up on a farm not too far away during this time. Because the removal and imprisonment of Japanese-American citizens after Pearl Harbor was something I wasn’t aware of until I took a recent U.S. history class during my senior year of high school, this book would be a great way to teach young people about this aspect of World War Ii.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
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A Day in Lorraine’s Life

Up with the rooster,

she milks cows, feeds and waters stock,

gathers eggs, shovels manure.

After breakfast, it’s off to the bus barn.

She picks up children from other farms,

drives them twenty miles to school.

 

After that, she goes to the YMCA,

jumps in the pool, once, twice, three times,

encourages adults to jog, jump,

breast stroke while sitting on kick boards,

teaches little kids to swim,

makes sure no one drowns.

 

In the afternoon, back in her school bus,

she drives kids home.

When she returns to the farm,

there’s milking to do,

stock to feed and water,

more manure to shovel, supper to fix,

and oh yes, she must bake cookies

for her water exercise classes.

Tomorrow’s the last day—

they should be rewarded.

 

From That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

 

Order from Finishing Line Press.

 

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Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver