cover image The Red Kimono

The Red Kimono

Jan Morrill. Univ. of Arkansas, $29.95 (308p) ISBN 978-1-55728-994-0

Japan has just attacked Pearl Harbor and two Californian families endure the rippling effects in this debut novel. Terrence, an African American teenager living in Berkeley, learns that his father has been killed in action. He's persuaded by peers to avenge his father's death by beating a Japanese man, Michio Kimura, leaving the man severely injured and Terrence in jail. Kimura is transported from the hospital to a Justice Department camp, and his family, after being informed that he has died en route, is relocated to Santa Anita Assembly Center in a mysterious effort by the U.S. Government to investigate and concentrate all Japanese inhabitants, whether citizens or not. Plot and historical intrigue drive this novel as Morrill's attempts to use punctuation as a vehicle for what language should do falls flat. Characters' thoughts are often more compelling than the language that surrounds them, as we see when Terrence recalls memories of racial discrimination: "He might have played on the same baseball and basketball teams as them, but how often did one of his white friends ask him over to one of their houses?" It reads like a story better suited for a visual medium, where prolific ideas are not as easily outweighed by poor language. (Feb.)