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After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Government encouraged all eligible young men to enlist immediately in the fight against its enemies overseas–all eligible young men, except Japanese-Americans. Nisei is the story of Hideo “Bobby” Takahashi, a Hawaiian-born Japanese-American who must overcome prejudice, internment, and the policies of his own government to prove his loyalty to his country. Narrated by Bobby Takahashi and read by his son, Robert, forty-six years after Bobby’s death, the story details the young Nisei’s determination to fight honorably for his country and return to the young love he was forced to leave–a girl he cannot have because she is White.
Nisei is an emotional historical fiction novel, written by JJ White, about the plight of a Japanese-American man during World War II. Hideo Takahashi, who went by “Bobby,”was what was referred to as “nisei,” meaning that he was second generation Japanese-American. As a teenager, Bobby lived a simple life and dreamed of joining the Navy. However, after the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor, discrimination against Japanese-Americans escalated dangerously, and Bobby and his family were soon captured and sent to an internment camp. He was eventually allowed to join the Army- not the Navy as he had hoped- yet faced even more hatred and racial prejudice there. Amidst the horrors of war, Bobby was determined to fight honorably and courageously, and once and for all prove that he was a true American. Decades later, Bobby’s depressed and suicidal son discovers his deceased father’s memoir about those tumultuous years, but he is not prepared for what he will find within those dusty pages.
Nisei is a very well researched, honest portrayal of the lives of Japanese-Americans during World War II. JJ White explores issues of race, prejudice, identity, and patriotism deeply and thoroughly in his novel, while remaining true to its historical roots. However, Nisei is also dripping in emotion; Bobby’s story is equal parts enlightening, heartbreaking, and inspiring. The emotional weight never smothers the heaviness of tragic truth; rather, they are balanced wonderfully in a well-rounded, page-turning novel.
There are occasions where Nisei is a bit hard to follow, as some of the pidgin and broken language could be difficult to understand. This is not a momentous problem, though, as it accurately portrays language barriers between Japanese immigrants, their Americanized children, and the people of Hawaii, where the book takes place. The patience required to sort out these bits of jumbled language does nothing to taint the overall value of this gut-wrenching tale. Nisei remains an enlightening glance into a dark chapter of American history, honest and raw in its portrayal of a brave Japanese-American man fighting to prove himself to the country he called home.
Originally critiqued by the staff of AuthorsTalkAboutIt.com.
J. J. White is an award winning novelist and short story writer who has been published in several anthologies and magazines including, Wordsmith, The Homestead Review, The Seven Hills Review, Bacopa Review, and The Grey Sparrow Journal. His story, The Adventures of the Nine Hole League, was recently published in The Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, #13. He has won awards and honors from the Alabama Writers Conclave, Writers-Editors International, Maryland Writers Association, The Royal Palm Literary Awards, Professional Writers of Prescott, and Writer’s Digest.
His crime fiction book, Deviant Acts, was released by Black Opal books in November, and was followed by his Historical Fiction book, Nisei, in 2016. He was recently nominated for the Pushcart Prize for his short piece, Tour Bus. He lives in Merritt Island, Florida with his understanding wife and editor, Pamela.
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