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Then came December 7, 1941.
Nisei is told primarily through a long letter dictated by Bobby for his son, to be read on his 18th birthday. But the son doesn't read it until much later in life, when he is at the lowest point of his life, and ready to end it all. But he discovers the manuscript, and curiosity keeps him reading.
The novel, well crafted and ingeniously simple, kept me reading.
At times while reading Nisei, I thought I could be reading a love story. But the undeniable overarching theme of Nisei, the Japanese term for the children of Japanese immigrants — in this case, Hawaii — is the story of the highly decorated and universally praised 442nd Regimental Combat Team, comprised of Americans of Japanese Ancestory, most of them Nisei. The unit fought with highest distinction in the European Theater during WWII despite the fact many had families in internment camps.
Nisei, through a fictional character, retells many aspects of the unit's campaigns, enough to satisfy any fan of war fiction.
But in the end, Nisei is a love story: father-son; friends who grow up together despite differences of race and religion; forbidden love between a Nisei boy and a Caucasian girl, high school sweethearts swept up in the winds of war and the prejudices of the time.
From the days leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor, to the summer of 2000, Nisei's retelling of the saga of two families and the unforeseen consequences of desperate decisions makes for fine reading. And as a bonus, the author has included many references to material he used in his research of the 442nd, and noted the availability of it for those interested. For history buffs, those with an interest in the era, and those interested in the exploits of the 442nd, it is a treasure.