Snow Falling on Cedars on Jan 7, 2016

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A late post in the making but I’m getting it out nonetheless! An interesting read with an interesting discussion on racial tensions between ethnic majority and minorities. We all agreed the language was a bit too descriptive and flowery (which would have made for a great script – you can perfectly set the scene!) for a reader. One of us listened to it on audiobook and the descriptions were enough to almost make her go mad!

However, the story itself was very compelling, and it’s interesting to see parallels in the way certain minorities are treated even today because of political tensions between countries at war (Donald Trump, anyone?).

Another interesting observation in the book is the dynamic between parent and child, especially when it comes to the difference between two different ethnic groups. One of our group mentioned how she, as a mother, experienced the dissonance when her child married outside their religious group. Her perspective was that she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to share the traditions and customs that she experienced with her daughter, but that, as she got older, looking back, it wasn’t really something to be worried about. This was incredibly interesting to contrast with one of the members who was the child who married into a different ethnic group, and who had parents who experienced the same dissonance. She was finally able to see it from her parents’ perspective. Being able to share both perspectives was incredibly eye-opening and refreshing!

We also discussed how differently the court procedures may have gone if (1) today’s forensic science existed (2) Kabuo had been honest from the getgo. The latter was especially important because towards the end of the book we were actually convinced that (SPOILERS from here on!) Kabuo may have actually committed the murder since he had lied about being on the boat or the deal that had been struck between him and Carl. It made him look extremely suspicious, especially when the evidence of the blood belonging to Carl was found on Kabuo’s boat. For a jury member who did not have the same perspective as us, the reader, no wonder they were so quick to judge him guilty!

The portrayal of obsession was also interestingly presented. Ishmael’s obsession with Hatsue, even after she was married – to the point of considering letting her husband go to jail after finding evidence to exonerate him – paralleled Kabuo’s obsession with getting back his family’s 7 acres of land. And in both cases, it was slowly destroying their personal lives.

Reading this book sparked an interest in finding out more about the Japanese internment in the US during World War II. If you are interested in reading more, here’s a link:  Internment of Japanese Americans. While the Japanese did not suffer nearly the horrendous maltreatment of Holocaust victims in Nazi Germany, many as American citizens – a majority being children – were denied basic human rights. Herded into small shacks like cattle or poultry, they were overcrowded, lacked working toilet facilities to accommodate such a large group, and often did not receive proper medical treatment due to lack of medical care and supplies. Japanese doctors were paid far less ($19/month) than white nurses ($150/month) who worked in the same facilities. They also lost most of the belongings and savings as they were only allowed to bring what they could carry and anything left behind had to be sold or entrusted to others for safekeeping. The fact that such institutionalization was based solely on racism was admitted and reparations were paid to survivors and their families by the US government. Please read the above linked article for a thorough exploration of the incident.

In conclusion, we all enjoyed the book, its interesting insights into racial tensions, and its superb character studies, but we all agreed it could have done better without all the unnecessary flowery descriptions. If you want to discuss the book online join us here: Snow Falling on Cedars discussion

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