Japanese lives matter

When Sheriff Art Moran reels in Carl Heine’s body entwined in his own fishing net, there’s plenty of circumstantial evidence implicating Kabuo Miyamoto in the man’s death.

The sheriff finds a battery belonging to Kabuo in Carl’s boat–and Carl’s blood on Kabuo’s fishing spear. An unresolved land dispute between the Heines and the Miyamotos makes a likely motive.

Snow Falling on Cedars

“Snow Falling on Cedars” by David Guterson is available from the library in hardcover, large print, and e-book. We also have the film on DVD.

But the real reason for Kabuo’s arrest is prejudice, still lingering in 1954 on this Pacific Northwest island. Many of the island’s white residents registered no protest as their Japanese-American neighbors–even those who were American citizens–were marched away to internment after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

When I read David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars, I was struck by the parallels between Kabuo’s behavior as a suspect and that of some African-Americans recently killed by the police.

Kabuo is less than forthcoming as to his whereabouts after the body is discovered, certain that if he tells the truth he won’t be treated fairly. Similarly, some people today believe that running from the police is more rational than getting caught and negotiating the justice system as an African-American.

In the manner of To Kill a Mockingbird, the murder mystery in this book keeps you turning the pages. But the payback for reading it is more profound than discovering whodunnit.

Guterson puts you in the shoes of mid-20th century villagers, who for years had shared the toil and celebration of the local strawberry harvest with Japanese-Americans but also had family members die at the hands of the Japanese. He shows you the hubris of jurors who require meager evidence to move them beyond a reasonable doubt of a Japanese-American man’s guilt. And he immerses you in one of the most evocative descriptions of an incessant winter storm you’ll ever read.

About Carol Luers Eyman

Carol Luers Eyman is the outreach and community services coordinator at the Nashua Public Library. After graduating from Kirkland College, she earned a master’s of education and a certificate in technical communication from the University of Massachusetts.

Comments are closed.