Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Julie Otsuka | When the Emperor Was Divine | 2003

Dear Girl,

First of all, I hope that you are doing well. You were always so headstrong and independent. After you got out of the internment camp, you seemed to have lost all your spunk and your liveliness. The last time I saw you, I recall not being able to see any sparkle in your eyes. I did see though, how much more independent you have become. Is it because you feel like you cannot depend on anyone else anymore? You were forced out of your home and everything changed. Your dad was gone. He was taken away from you and could not be there to protect you. You know that it was not his fault. He did not ask to be taken away in the middle of the night, without any time to change out of his bathrobe and slippers. You acted indifferent about your father and that you re ally did not care whether he was gone or not. You told Ted Ishimoto that your dad never wrote you any letters. That was a lie. I know that you are angry and hurt, but I think that you need to forgive your father. He really does care for you. If he could, I know that he would never want to leave your side. He loves you.

In the camps, you never wanted to spend any time with your mom or your brother. You were always off with your friends: dancing, playing bingo, jump roping, secretly smoking. Did you also feel betrayed by your mother? Like your father, you wanted her to be there to protect you. She was supposed to maintain the home and create a safe, happy place to live. That internment camp was not a home. She made you and your brother pack your belongings and leave your house. She was the one who took you away to that awful place. I hope you understand that she could not prevent it from happening; it was a governmental order. She could not break the law, but please realize that if she had the power, she would never wish for this to happen to you.

I bet you felt frustrated all the time. You were going through puberty at the time and you felt awkward and uncomfortable. You were struggling with newfound feelings and your body was changing. Not only were you struggling with the pain of puberty, but you also felt the weight of an inner turmoil that most kids your age never had to deal with. You were ashamed of your ethnicity, your heritage, and your face. Why did you have to be different? Why did everyone hate you? Why did you have to be Japanese? At the time, you would have given anything to be anyone else. Once again you blamed your parents. From the beginning, everything that happened was their fault. They were the reason you were so despised in the first place. They were the ones who made you Japanese. Please learn to forgive them, but most of all please learn to love yourself. You are beautiful. You always talk about how pretty you think your mother is and if she is as lovely as you say, because she is your mother, you are every ounce as lovely as she is.

Girl, take my words into consideration. All I want is to see that sparkle come back in your eyes. Please take care so that maybe one day I can see you exactly as you were before.

Best regards,
Stephanie Rabino