Friday, April 5, 2013

take what you can carry

take what you can carry
kevin c. pyle
graphic novel/drama
henry holt & co.
published 2012

His father in government custody, Ken is one of more than 110,000 Japanese Americans forced to move to makeshift relocation camps in the tumultuous months after Pearl Harbor.  As traditional family bonds fray, and sometimes break, he stumbles toward a state of gaman: enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity.

Nearly four decades later, another boy also begins a new life.  A recent arrival to his rapidly developing suburb, Kyle assumes the role of daredevil and thief, always willing to take a risk too far.  But when his exploits land him in jail, it's clear that risks have consequence and debts must be paid.

It was the title this time and not the cover itself that caught my eye.  Reminiscent of Only What We Could Carry (a book everyone should read) my hand went to pick it up without even really thinking about it.  As I suspected it did deal with the internment of Japanese Americans, but with a bit of a twist.

The book flips back and forth from a 1978 Chicago suburb and 1941-1944 California.  In 1978 we follow Kyle in bright white & blues.  In the 40's Ken is awash in dark browns and silence.  There are never any words relayed in Ken's story so we're left with pictures which is almost more telling than words.

Incredibly powerful, although I'm not sure if I cry for Ken or for my family.  I wonder if I should have tried harder to get my Grandmother & Great-Uncles & Great-Aunts to talk about their time in the camps.  It was something that they obviously never wanted to talk about.  When asked my Ba-chan (grandmother) would always say she was too young to remember.  My Uncles always changed the subject and with time I understood this was something that they didn't want to to remember.

I wonder what happened when they came home.  How they were treated, what happened to all of the belongings left behind and how they rebuilt everything.  I wonder about Great-Grandparents I never knew, how much they must have suffered.  I wonder what it must have felt like to have always felt like part of a country and then all of a sudden being told you were not, to not belong anywhere.

In class I was once told by an entitled rich kid that the Japanese Americans wanted to go to the camps.  That it was like a vacation for them.  That was the first time I realized people were idiots. 

What struck me most about this book was the way Pyle chose to voice the time in the internment camp.  With no voice.  No dialogue spoken.  It felt to me as a nod to the quiet that covers the events even to this day.  It is not spoken of, expect mostly by Sansei who want their parents and grandparents stories to be told, to not be forgotten.  Well worth the read.

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