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I found this book at the library.  It peeked my interest because it was unusual.  I love Manga but this didn’t seem to be like any Manga I had ever read.  Being that it is a graphic novel, I was more willing to take a risk.

Boy, did that ever pay off.  Honestly, this is a book I wish everyone would read.  It’s not new – this version published in 2002.  I think I find that very sad because it came and went with little fanfare.  This book needs to be read.

Let me explain what this book is – Frederik L. Schodt discovered a little gem at a university library.  What he held in his hands was the original self-published book by Henry Kiyama.  This could very well have been the first graphic novel.  Definitely the first of it’s kind.  A book written in Japanese and English for those who had immigrated to America.

This is a first hand account of what it was like to be Japanese in San Francisco from 1904 – 1924.  His story is told in a manner to be humorous but it’s not a funny story.  It’s a tale of racism, oppression, and hope.  It’s filled with history that is often hidden.

We spend a lot of time talking about racism as if it’s a black vs white problem.  No one talks about the discrimination those from Asia dealt with.  We know about the internment camps but act as if it was a one time situation.  We act as if it’s justifiable because we were at war.  What we don’t talk about is how Japan became our enemy.  I never really gave it much thought.

Reading this book, I, now, understand the anger Japan had for America when the war came.  They were a child we bullied when all they wanted was to be our friend.  It makes me sad to be an American.  It breaks my heart terribly.

And yet, Henry Kiyama didn’t seem to hate America.  He came back time and time again.  He wanted to be an American.  I don’t know if he loved this country but he, at least, liked it.  What is the most impressive is that he really wanted to be like us.  He created trends that he doesn’t seem to get credit for.

Take a chance on this book.  It opened my eyes, not only for what happened historically, but for what is happening today.  It reminded me that we haven’t changed as much as we think we have.  But I can’t shake his hope for a better future.

(Click on the picture to go to Amazon.)