Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Excerpt from Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire

Author David Mura contacted me over the break and gave me permission to post an excerpt to his moving and thoughtful book about a Sansei academic trying to solve the mystery of his father and his missing brother.  So much of his book spoke directly to me and expresses part of the reason why I wanted to adapt NO NO BOY, and why I think the book/play is important to anyone trying to understand how we got to where we are. 

This following passage is from the first few paragraphs of a chapter called ST. JUDE'S (page 118 of the paperback edition):

"I am the son of internees.  Two young people whom the government jailed because it believed that they might be spies for old Nippon.  Not quite Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, nothing as specific as that.  No, everyone in my parents' entire community was rounded up.  It was easier that way.  And most went along with the government, followed their orders to the letter, wanting to prove it was all a big mistake.  And some, at a certain point, did not go along.  Among these was my father.

"After all these years, this history seems no more real to me than nineteenth-century Polish politics or a list of the maharajahs of some Indian province.  A handful of obscure documents, a sidelight to the major, real events of history.  No one knows about it anymore; no one cares.  And what it all has to do with my father sinking afternoons into the dark folds of our living room couch, I still can't fathom.

"Perhaps, as the psychologists tend to view things these days, it was all chemical.  A few tabs of Zoloft or Prozac would have saved him; it would have all melted away.  And there'd be no past, no shame, no stigma from raising his hand in protest rather than bowing his head in patriotic obedience.  Perhaps politics had nothing to do with it all.  Perhaps it lay buried deep inside my father long before Pearl Harbor, before the war, before everything changed.  Merely biochemical fault lines, bad synapses, something in his genes.  Our genes."


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