I pay my dues to OWL (Ozark Writers League), but I have never made a meeting, just like I have never attended a Missouri Writers’ Guild meeting. Some reason always sets me back, keeps me from attending. I have never met Jan Morrill who is presently the OWL president, but I did just finish her novel, The Red Kimono.
The title alone tweaked my imagination. When I kept seeing references made to the book, I decided I had better check it out. I was not disappointed in the story I found set in an era I favor. The characters are introduced and the story unfolds just as WWII begins for Americans. When Black American Terrence Harris’s father is killed at Pearl Harbor, his anger and anguish lead him to join two White boys in an attack on a Japanese American man who happened to be the father of his friend Nobu Kimura.
The novel moves back and forth between events of the Kimura family who are rounded up for Japanese internment camps and the Harris family. The novel shares a quiet but vivid picture of how lives were altered here at home, not just in the battles of war. Morrill subtly and sometimes not so subtly raises questions for readers to answer in their own minds.
What about prejudice and hatred…where do they begin? What is right and wrong; is everything black or white? How do we handle forgiveness? Are forgiving and forgetting the same thing?
The story is a solid tale told in frank terms, but the author does not rely on vulgar language, graphic details or sex scenes. My first thought when I closed the cover was how I would like to teach this novel to young students. I think the story is ripe for discussion for any group though.
Morrill did a fine job with this novel, and the book jacket says she is already working on a sequel to the book. I think we will see lots more out of Jan Morrill…and maybe someday I will meet her somewhere besides on the page.