Under the Silk Hibiscus by Alice Wisler explores the realities of the Japanese internment camps in the United States in the days after Pearl Harbor. Japanese Americans were made to sell their businesses and possessions and move away from the West Coast states into internment camps. Many of these people never made it out alive.
This is the story of a young boy named Nathan Mori, who moved with his family to Heart Mountain, Wyoming, where they lived in a board barracks. Nathan is trusted with the care of a unique pocket watch that had belonged to his grandfather. It is his family’s only treasure.
This is Nathan’s story, and it reveals many emotions: frustration, loss, grief, romance, and hope. It’s also the story of the Japanese-Americans who suffered and died in these camps, though they had every right to be full citizens of the United States. It’s a story of injustice, acceptance, bitterness, and forgiveness.
A secondary theme is beauty. There’s always some beauty in the midst of the ugliness. There’s a baby’s birth, the beautiful gold watch, and the silk hibiscus in a pretty girl’s hair. There’s the beauty of music and laughter—in surroundings with too many tears.
I enjoyed this book. It’s not funny; it’s tragic. But, there’s hope throughout this story about Nathan's family. The ending is positive and satisfying. It’s good read, thoughtfully written.