With themes of fear, racism and forgiveness that are as relevant today as they were seventy years ago, Jan Morrill’s debut novel “The Red Kimono” is gripping audiences from coast to coast. Taking readers deep into the lives of two young Japanese Americans and their African American friend as they experience dramatic events of World War II, The Red Kimono offers a compelling reality check for all.
A glimpse back at 1940s America will send chills down the spines of many who lived through it. As the United States suffered crippling societal fear and racism, a string of geopolitical events further deepened tensions. In a ground-breaking debut novel by Jan Morrill, the fictional story of three young Americans caught up in troubles of the era is vividly depicted for a twenty-first century audience. The Red Kimono travels deep into each of their lives as they navigate and pay for the problems inflicted upon them.
In 1941, racial tensions are rising toward Japanese-Americans in the California community where nine year-old Sachiko Kimura and her seventeen year-old brother, Nobu live. When Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, tensions erupt and Sachi witnesses three teenage boys taunting and beating her papa in a park. She especially remembers the colored boy with hazel eyes, Terrence Harris. When Nobu comes upon the scene, he cannot believe the boys he witnesses beating his father are his friends.
Unbeknownst to Sachi and Nobu, that morning, Terrence’s family received a telegram that his father was killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Desperate to escape his pain, he leaves home and runs into two high school friends who convince him the only thing that will help is to “get a Jap.” When they find a Japanese man and beat him up, they do not know it is Nobu’s father.
In the months that follow, Terrence is convicted of manslaughter is sentenced to two years in prison. Sachi and Nobu are sent to an internment camp in Arkansas. Each will change during imprisonment. One will learn acceptance. One will remain in a prison of resentment. And one will seek a path to forgiveness.
Woven with themes of bigotry and betrayal, friendship and forgiveness, treachery and tradition, The Red Kimono takes place in California and Arkansas during World War II and sets a multi-cultural stage that contrasts the lives of those who can and cannot forgive.
As the author explains, her book’s startling themes are still deep-rooted in modern society.
“Fear, racism and forgiveness are as relevant today as they were when this story took place seventy years ago. Though the fear surrounding 9/11 reminded me of that which surrounded Pearl Harbor, I still see ignorance that causes anger, fear, hatred, etc. with regard to differences in politics, religion, culture, class,” says Morrill, whose own mother was a Japanese American internee during WWII. Continuing, “The Red Kimono compares the lives of those who choose to remain closed to those who open themselves to the discovery of our differences.”
You can get the book here.
The Red Kimono book trailer by Jan Morrill
The Red Kimono discussion with Jan Morrill
More about author Jan Morrill
Jan Morrill was born and (mostly) raised in California. Her mother, a Buddhist Japanese American, was an internee during World War II. Her father, a Southern Baptist redhead of Irish descent, retired from the Air Force. Many of her stories reflect memories of growing up in a multicultural, multi-religious, multi-political environment as does her debut novel, THE RED KIMONO, which was published by the University of Arkansas Press in February 2013.
An artist as well as a writer, she is currently working on the sequel to The Red Kimono.
Jan’s award-winning short stories and memoir essays have been published in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series of books and several anthologies. Recently, she was nominated for the Pushcart Prize for her short story “Xs and Os,” which appeared in the Voices Anthology.