Monday, 11 May 2015

Tallgrass - Sandra Dallas

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    Sandra Dallas, another American writer who has such a gift.  Every book is different, the "voice" is different, the tale is different, the era is different.  This one, comparatively modern, is set during WW2 in Colorado.  In case you didn't know, after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour, all Japanese-Americans living on or near the West Coast of America were removed from their homes and interned in camps away from coastal areas for the duration of the war.    Although this is a fiction, it is based on a camp in Colorado and if you go to Dallas's web site, you can find out more about it.

    In the meantime, let me tell you a little of this gritty book, which for me was hard to read because of the subject matter, revealing much of human nature in general, and brings to the surface the hatred that some of us have for "different" folk.  And of course, in bringing up those feelings it made me hate those who hated the different others........

    Rennie has just turned 13 when the land is cleared and set up for the internment camp next door to her family's sugar beet farm.  The first few busloads of Japanese-Americans have hardly hit the ground when the signs start to go up in town - "NO JAPS".  Rennie has a brother and a sister;  Bud, who has joined up to fight in Europe, and Marthalice, who lives miles away in Denver. When most of the younger or single men in town have joined up or been called up, Rennie's Dad decides to employ some young men from the camp to help with the sugar beet.  At the same time, a child is raped and killed, and for those who should know better, the conclusion is that "the Japs must have done it".  This is a thriller and a historical novel.  Can't fault the research, and the voice of Rennie is just perfect.  You are a young teen, you get bullied at school, your sister is grown up now and living away, your Mother not in the best of health, and the whole town is taking sides.

    It's a book that made me very emotional, even though I knew nothing of these camps, living in a different country, and being born after WW2.  It is the old old story of fearing that which you don't know, and the problems that fear can bring.  I'd recommend this to anyone, but I particularly want to recommend it to the Young Adult readership, because it's a brilliant story of growing up and understanding adults, but also it is clear that the author does not take sides but points out a way forward without hatred.  The character of Rennie's father is based on her own father.  What a great dad he must have been.