Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Book Review: Tallgrass

Sandra Dallas' book, Tallgrass, is the story of a young girl whose life is turned upside down by the influx of Japanese Americans shipped to an internment camp not far from her during World War II. It is a historical novel, telling of a time when racism against the perceived enemy was rampant. By nature of their background, the Japanese Americans are viewed with skepticism and considered possible spies, despite being every bit as American as the next guy.

Thirteen year old Rennie Stroud is proud of her father, who willingly hires Japanese boys from the internment camp to help work his beet farm while his son is off fighting in the war, but doesn't know quite what to make of the racial tensions. In a town never very familiar with crime, Rennie's quiet, crippled friend is raped and murdered. Suspicions naturally fall upon the newcomers, the Japanese. As the story unfolds, Rennie learns that things are not always cut and dry and secrets linger which alter perceptions of reality.

I enjoyed listening to this book in audio form. It was an interesting tale, full of both good and bad-natured individuals. I loved Rennie's family and their interactions with the town folk (her mother with "the Jolly Stitchers," her quilting circle, and the father both with his hired hands and with others in the town who were unsympathetic to his position towards the Japanese). I appreciated the exploration of human nature. I loved that the tale was told from the perspective of a young girl desperate to feel more grown up. I grew to love the characters and wanted to know how things were going to turn out for all of them. I was also pleased to be able to listen to a brief interview with the author at the end of the audio presentation. I would recommend this book if you are interested in historical fiction about racism during World War II or if you are merely interested in a human interest tale of family life in a troubled world where things grow more complicated.

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