Japanese American Concentration Camp Kaiko Haiku (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon
I was saddened to receive the news this morning that Violet de Cristoforo had died on October 3, at the age of 90. I had not been in touch with her for a long time, and I felt some guilt for not continuing communication over the years. For some years, Violet had sent a small gift to me each Christmas, which I had followed with a telephone call or note.
Yet bitterness often showed through her carefully composed lines:
Looking at summer moon
on Castle Rock
we are living in alien (enemy) land
At war’s end in 1946 Violet was expatriated to Japan, returning to the bomb-scarred Hiroshima where both her father and mother had died in the explosion of the atomic bomb. Her husband, she discovered, had remarried. In order to support herself and her children, she worked concurrently in three jobs, paid by the Americans in the devalued yen instead of dollars.
Although the book received some critical attention, the major newspapers and magazines, to my amazement, did not bother to review the work. Clearly there was some confusion over whether this was a history of the Japanese Concentration Camps or a collection of Haiku; it was both, I tried to explain, but book editors often can only comprehend books that fall into standard categories; and, I suspect, that if they sought any guidance from Japanese scholars or critics, Violet’s outspoken history did not help the matter. I called book editors across the country, sent copies of the book to the newspapers of every major city—not one of them responded! Although there have been several studies now on the shameful incarceration of Japanese Americans, there had never been a book that explored the issues from this perspective. Evidently, those in power still did not want to face the past!
Los Angeles, October 9, 2007