Gila River was the place where my eight-year-old sister, Kimi, learned to go to the bathroom with a white cotton pillowcase pulled over her head. It was Mama who came up with the idea after a week of Kimi refusing to go.
The pillowcase, Mama said, took the place of the walls and doors that weren't in the latrine, and gave some privacy from others sitting close by trying to use the bathroom, too.
"No one will see you through it," Mama promised. "Yes, you'll be able to breathe. The air can get in."
Then she stood for three long minutes with the pillowcase over her own head to prove this.
"But what if it takes me more than three minutes in the latrine?" said Kimi.
Mama didn't answer. Instead, she pulled the pillowcase back over her head, sat down on the concrete floor, knees bent, shoulders curled in. Stayed there until the desert bats came out and the sky turned dark orange.
Kimi walked a circle around her, and you could see her deciding that this idea might work.
"Can you still breathe?"
And each time Kimi asked, Mama nodded. But I don't think Mama was taking all that time to show Kimi she could breathe. I think Mama was hiding the sadness she didn't want Kimi to see. (1-2)
I loved, loved, loved this book. It was such a GREAT book. I absolutely LOVED the writing--it was so beautiful, so practically perfect in every way.
I LOVED the characters. I did. As much as I enjoyed the main character--the narrator--a young boy named Tetsu, I just LOVED a minor character called Horse. Oh, how I loved him--I really felt for him. I felt for so many of the characters.
And the story itself was just wonderfully compelling. A Diamond in the Desert is set in a Japanese internment camp in Arizona during World War II. Tetsu's family is just one of many, many Japanese families forced to live in an internment camp after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941.
At this particular camp, Gila River, Tetsu is one of many who joins a baseball team. Playing baseball is one of the ways they can still feel normal. Many, many things have changed since America entered the war, and they may not have many freedoms, many joys, in this camp. But baseball. Well, it encourages them, gives them hope.
Kyo's Papa brought a bat to the field one night. He picked up small rocks from the pile of cleared-away stones, then threw them one by one into the air like they were baseballs, hitting them as far as he could.But. This book is not just about boys playing baseball. It is SO MUCH MORE than that. This book has heart and soul. This book has depth. It is just so rich. It's beautiful, capturing your heart almost from the start. This is a book that completely wowed me.
Kyo, Ben, and I, we started running after them.
We fielded those rocks like we were playing a World Series game, and we didn't care how many times we crashed into each other, or how dirty we got, or even about skinned elbows.
We didn't care about the mess hall closing for dinner or torn pants, or the hole in my shoe getting bigger.
We just wanted to make the greatest catches ever in the whole history of baseball. And that night, each of us did. (84)
Read A Diamond in the Desert
- If you are looking for a great children's book; the quality of this one is amazing!
- If you enjoy historical fiction
- If you enjoy stories set during World War II
- If you are looking to read more about the Japanese Internment camps in the U.S.
- If you're a baseball fan
- If you're NOT a baseball fan
© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews