Michael G. Malaghan
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald
Editor’s note: We continue Michael G. Malaghan’s serialized historical novel, “Picture Bride — A Family Saga,” based on the Japanese immigrant experience. Malaghan’s trilogy takes readers from turn-of-the-20th-century-Japan to Hawai‘i in the picture bride era; the Islands during World War II, highlighted by the exploits of the Nisei soldiers; and beyond.
The novel, which is now available as a printed softcover book, opens with 12-year-old Haru-chan, fleeing her home in Amakusa, Kyüshü, for Hiroshima, where she becomes the picture bride of a Buddhist priest in Hawai‘i.
Author Michael Malaghan is a retired businessman who divides his time between Hawai‘i, Georgia and Japan.
“I’m asking one more time, little brother,” said Tommy, out of breath from running up three flights of stairs to Kenta’s Atherton dorm room. He was waving his Japanese citizenship document automatically granted to every Nisei.
“It’s time for us to burn this and renounce our Japanese citizenship.”
“I said ‘no’ last week, I said ‘no’ yesterday and I am telling you ‘no’ today! ‘No’ is ‘no,’” said Kenta, his voice more agitated and louder with each refusal.
“You owe me a favor,” said Tommy, almost begging.
“If you’re trying to call in a chip on school lessons you never gave Teiko, forget it,” shouted Kenta.
The mere mention of his sister’s name stirred up rueful feelings — more so since Takeshi had told him, “Don’t tell Mom, but I saw Teiko, dressed in a kimono, enter the Tale of Genji.”
He did not have to say more about the notorious Chinatown nightclub, infamous for patrons paying a bar fine to escort the hostesses out of the club. Nor did he admit that since Teiko left their home, there had been a void in his life. She was his biological sister — his truest sibling — although unacknowledged. He wanted to reach out to her, but how? He let the thought flicker past and instead answered his brother.
“If you think expatriation will make the Americans forget you’re Japanese, go to the burning.”
“There are thousands of us showing our loyalty to America by renouncing our Japanese citizenship. You should be there,” Tommy responded.
“Damn it!” said Kenta, exasperated that he had to repeat himself over and over. “Why should I give up what is mine by birth? America and Japan have a treaty granting us Nisei dual citizenship. It’s my right. Just like voting when I come of age.”
“That’s why this is needed,” said Tommy.
“Then do it. Turn your back on the only country that gives Mom and Dad citizenship. Are you embracing America or getting back at Dad for making you go to language school all those years?”
Tommy’s open hand cracked across Kenta’s cheek.
Kenta, the younger brother — but the better athlete — clenched his fist. He did not strike back, though. His icy stare, however, forewarned his brother against a second slap. His voice turned low and menacing.
“Don’t think expatriation will convince a single haole we are loyal Americans. Those who don’t trust us have their minds made up. You want them to accept you? Have your slanted eyes rounded, add an inch to your nose and bleach your skin white on the way to your bonfire,” Kenta shouted.
“You are not the brother I thought you were.”
Kenta rubbed his face where Tommy had slapped him. “That makes two of us.”
Tommy stormed toward the door, flung it open and then turned. “Last chance, Kenta!”
Kenta turned his back on his brother and walked over to his desk to struggle with his calculus assignment. He stared at the formulas for 20 minutes before finally giving up and walking over to the cafeteria for a burger.
To be continued . . .