THE LEGEND OF FIRE HORSE WOMAN

Jeanne Wakatsuki-Houston, Author, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, Author . Kensington $23 (304p) ISBN 978-0-7582-0455-4

Drawing on her firsthand experiences in a Japanese internment camp during World War II, Houston (author of the memoir Farewell to Manzanar) again explores a shameful episode of American history in this heartfelt debut novel. Women born under the inauspicious sign of the fire horse are too beautiful, powerful and cunning to be humble wives—this makes them "outcasts in Japan, but heroines in America where they must realize this feminine power in order to survive and prevail." Proud Sayo, a fire horse woman, comes to California from Japan in 1902 and 40 years later finds herself imprisoned with her daughter Hana and granddaughter Terri in an internment camp at Manzanar. She urges her family to maintain their dignity in such chaotic times, reminding them that "because we are forced to live like animals does not mean we act like them." Hana, "accustomed to being invisible around the family," finds a kind of freedom in the prison as she musters the courage to assert herself and realizes that "having a different opinion is not a sickness of the mind. It can even be a strength." Terri, 13, is fiercely intelligent, observant and unafraid to say what she thinks. She has inherited Sayo's intuition and ability to communicate with the spirit world, but can her own spirit survive the beating it takes in wartime America? Houston adeptly interweaves Sayo's past and her family's tumultuous present, drawing parallels between Native Americans and displaced Japanese-Americans without hammering the reader with history lessons or blaming individuals for the government's actions. With hope, humor and resilience, Houston celebrates the immigrants who determined "this was America, after all, where preposterous ideas became reality." (Nov. 4)

Reviewed on: 09/08/2003
Release date: 11/01/2003
Genre: Fiction
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