The Stubborn Twig was chosen by the Oregon Library Association in 2009 to celebrate Oregon’s 150th birthday as the selection for the statewide Oregon Reads program.
This non-fiction novel follows Masuo Yasui from his original home in Japan to America and his family’s journey through adapting to America and the Japanese Internment in Oregon. The novel has three parts, one for each generation, and the author clearly shows how America evolved through the years in its acceptance of Japanese immigrants. The Yasui’s are forced to struggle through life as the misfits with yellow faces that did not fit in, even though they were very smart and were equal to those of American descent. The novel also raises important topics such as suicide, shown when the author writes, “When Masuo came home late that night and learned of Kay [his son]’s mischief, he exploded, ‘ripping him up one side and down the other,’ as Homer remembers it…Masuo was more than disappointed in Kay; he was ashamed of him. Kay’s prank was probably seen as an act of aggression against his younger brother, and children in a Japanese family were taught to withhold aggression” (Kessler 123). Masuo’s disappointment hurt Kay to the point that he committed suicide.
The author helps the reader understand the struggles that Japanese immigrants faced, through their discrimination long before the Internment and for a lengthy period of time afterwards. The novel includes many examples of foreshadowing and flashbacks, which help to connect the three separate sections of the novel. The author chose to write in an informative way, informing the reader about the time period and the legal system while letting the reader connect to characters. This novel is very dense, with instances where one paragraph explains a whole year of events. This makes the novel seem much longer than two hundred and seventy seven pages.
Those who read this book should be looking to learn about the Japanese Internment through character’s reactions and a historical sketch of the time period. As Governor Theodore R. Kulongoski notes in the preface of the book, “the vision for the sesquicentennial is: Appreciate the past. Celebrate the present. Imagine the future.” This statement connects to the second generation of the Yasui family because the second generation appreciates what their parents did to help their lives become better than their own, and to imagine the future filled with kids who did not have to endure the Internment. The Japanese Internment was briefly mentioned in eighth grade and I recommend this book to those who want to bridge the gaps and enrich their learning from the previous year.