Weedflower

The book Weedflower tells the story of a Japanese internment camp in Arizona.

Weedflower was written by Cynthia Kadohata and my students and I read this when I was teaching. At that time, I had no idea I would share two granddaughters with their Japanese grandmother. I recently bought the book for my granddaughters and thought I’d share some of the things I learned from researching Japanese Internment Camps.

Ten internment camps housed 120,000 Japanese who were removed from the west coast of America shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Transports began in February 1942. There were ten camps in the following states: California, Montana, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah and Arizona. The camp in Poston, Arizona, was built on a Native American reservation. This was the setting of Weedflower.

The book is written through the experience of a young girl, Sumiko, and is historically correct. The Native Americans did not want the camp and resented the camp having electricity and running water. The Japanese people were fearful of the Native Americans and believed they were savages because of the stories they had heard. Sumiko developed a friendship with a Mohave boy and a Romeo and Juliet story unfolds.

Interesting things I learned from my research: Canada sent 24,000 to 26 Japanese internment camps. Mexico also had internment camps and zones of confinement. As a result of the Japanese workers digging irrigation canals, Poston, Arizona, became an agricultural center. Men were allowed to enlist in the army and fight in Europe during WW II and 33,000 Japanese Americans did. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team was composed almost entirely of second generation American soldiers of Japanese descent (Nisei) and is known as the most decorated unit in US military history.

Why is the book called Weedflower? Sumiko’s family grew and sold carnations, but she loved the weedflowers best and took the seed to the desert where they grew. I have no idea what it is, but I took a picture of a weedflower growing in an area where grass is struggling to survive. It’s my weedflower, but unlike Sumiko’s, it doesn’t have a scent.

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