Good morning everyone, and happy Wednesday! We're halfway through the week, which probably has a few of you pretty giddy. Allow me to add to that feeling by sharing a great book! This spotlight is on Nora & Kettle by Lauren Nicolle Taylor, and I promise you that it sounds amazing.
What if Peter Pan was a homeless kid just trying to survive, and Wendy flew away for a really good reason?
Seventeen-year-old Kettle has had his share of adversity. As an orphaned Japanese American struggling to make a life in the aftermath of an event in history not often referred to—the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and the removal of children from orphanages for having “one drop of Japanese blood in them”—things are finally looking up. He has his hideout in an abandoned subway tunnel, a job, and his gang of Lost Boys.
Desperate to run away, the world outside her oppressive brownstone calls to naïve, eighteen-year-old Nora—the privileged daughter of a controlling and violent civil rights lawyer who is building a compensation case for the interned Japanese Americans. But she is trapped, enduring abuse to protect her younger sister Frankie and wishing on the stars every night for things to change.
For months, they’ve lived side by side, their paths crossing yet never meeting. But when Nora is nearly killed and her sister taken away, their worlds collide as Kettle, grief stricken at the loss of a friend, angrily pulls Nora from her window.
In her honeyed eyes, Kettle sees sadness and suffering. In his, Nora sees the chance to take to the window and fly away.
Set in 1953, NORA AND KETTLE explores the collision of two teenagers facing extraordinary hardship. Their meeting is inevitable, devastating, and ultimately healing. Their stories, a collection of events, are each on their own harmless. But together, one after the other, they change the world.
I admit that what intrigued me most when I first read this synopsis, was that it's a retelling of sorts but really much deeper than that. There aren't a lot of Japanese American protagonists out there either, so this doubly intrigued me. I've added it to my reading list. Have you added it to yours?
Buy it here:
Now, a guest post from the author. Lauren Nicolle Taylor has written an excellent piece on Japanese American internment, and how it relates to this story. Take a minute, soak it all in.
The history of JA internment and how that ties to Nora & Kettle
The country in which you have lived peacefully, happily for much or all of your life suddenly sees you as an enemy. Because of something someone else did, who shares nothing with you other than the color of your skin, your home and possessions, the life you have built, will be taken from you permanently.
Pack only what you can carry, sell your home, your land, your business for a pittance and follow the American army into the dessert, where you will live for up to four years. You have one week to make these preparations if you’re lucky. Others who are considered especially suspicious must leave immediately.
This was reality for many of the Japanese Americans living on the western side of America after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans were forced against their will to relocate to camps set up in isolated, harsh environments such as the middle of Wyoming and Utah.
Two thirds of those interned were born in America and were citizens. Almost 2000 people died during this internment and all were traumatized or damaged in some way due to their treatment.
It was a shameful period in American history, one it seems many would like to forget. Deemed by a later administration to be a policy firmly rooted in racism rather than any real threat to the country, Japanese American internment has been a short paragraph in the history books that most students gloss right over.
It is a historical event that has always fascinated me. The sheer volume of people affected and the seemingly baseless way in which it was implemented baffles me.
In Kettle’s case, he is a half Japanese, half Caucasian orphan who has no ties to either culture. Yet because of his blood and his appearance he is thrown into these camps.
It was an interesting exercise exploring the perspective of someone who may have actually enjoyed the camps to an extent because it was the first time he had ever had a family. But at the same time, the ill treatment, the racism experienced from the camp officials and the surrounding towns brought with it a hugely negative side.
Nora and Kettle is predominantly about what happens to someone after internment.
When the prisoners were released they were given fifty US dollars. Many had lost their land holdings and businesses. A number didn’t want to return to their hometowns after what they had been through and how the community had treated them. Regardless, they were all expected to start over with nothing.
In Kettle’s case, he leaves the camps with an inherent fear of being captured again. So he takes his fifty dollars and runs at the first opportunity. As he grows older he is plagued with flashbacks of his internment and his time in an orphanage. He memories are a warning that with his face, his skin, people will never trust him, many will hate him and he is better off living under the radar.
I think many of the Japanese American’s who were interned would have left the camps with a massive distrust and disbelief in the government of the time and the people who supported the act.
It must have been so very hard to leave behind the spirals of barbed wire without carrying with them the wounds of imprisonment.
Lauren Nicolle Taylor lives in the lush Adelaide Hills. The daughter of a Malaysian nuclear physicist and an Australian scientist, she was expected to follow a science career path, attending Adelaide University and completing a Health Science degree with Honours in obstetrics and gynaecology.
She then worked in health research for a short time before having her first child. Due to their extensive health issues, Lauren spent her twenties as a full-time mother/carer to her three children. When her family life settled down, she turned to writing.
She is a 2014 Kindle Book Awards Semi-finalist and a USA Best Book Awards Finalist.