Recent events in the news have inspired me to share this segment from my award-winning novel, In The Eye of the Storm. On Tuesday, I will discuss Executive Order 9066 in “Facts from My Fiction.”
Clarice also spent a lot of time talking to her imaginary grandmother about her best friend and former classmate, Grace Sakamoto. In 1942, when Clarice was eleven, Grace — along with her entire family — had been taken away to live in a camp at the Tanforan Race track. Grace and Clarice had been in the fifth grade together at the Presidio Elementary School. Veronique shopped at the Sakamotos’ little grocery store.
Clarice recalled her confusion at the time; Mommy had said that the president signed an executive order saying that all Japanese people had to go live in camps; at the time Grace thought that this was like summer camp. How wrong she was.
Grace was American, just like Clarice. Mr. Sakamoto was born in Japan, but Mrs. Sakamoto was born in right in San Francisco. Clarice had been born in San Francisco as well, and for a time worried that she would be sent away. After all, Daddy was American, but Mommy was born in France. It seemed to her at the time that people who had only one parent born in America were being sent off and she was afraid for a long while until she got a little older and understood that it was only Japanese people. Veronique refused to shop at the Sakamotos’ little store as long as the new family had it; she said she could shop somewhere else until the Sakamotos came back, that was all. She started buying her little tins of Smith’s Rosebud Salve and other toiletries at the local Rexall Drug on Chestnut Street, and her groceries from another shop entirely.
After the war, Grace and her mother returned to San Francisco; her father, who had not been an old man, had become ill and died in the camp. Grace and her mother were not given the store back as everyone had hoped; they went to work in a dress shop in Japantown, sewing clothes late into the night. Clarice seldom saw her friend anymore; they did not attend the same high school. Clarice missed her; the girls from the monthly lunch club were nice enough, but Clarice didn’t let any of them get too close to her. That presidential order had hurt more than just the Japanese people, Clarice reflected; she feared losing friends too much to be any good at making them after a while.
Even amongst the Saturday Restaurant Club girls, Clarice believed she would never find a friend as good as Grace.