The Harvest of Hate (book)
|Title||The Harvest of Hate|
|Author||Georgia Day Robertson|
|Original Publisher||Oral History Program, California State University, Fullerton|
|Original Publication Date||1986|
|Current Publisher||Lynx Books|
|Current Publication Date||1989|
Novel focusing on one Japanese American family's forced removal and incarceration written by a former teacher at Poston. Originally written in 1946, The Harvest of Hate first saw publication forty years later.
The book's protagonist is Tamotsu "Tom" Sato, a young Nisei who is a year out of high school as the story starts just prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. His Issei father Shigeru has become a relatively successful farmer in the fictional San Diego County town of La Vista after many years of struggle. Tom's older brother Tadashi (called "Tad") has enlisted in the army, his younger sister Mari is a high school junior, and his baby brother Yoshio is about to enter middle school. The Satos are close friends with the Sullivans, with Allen being a classmate of Tom's and Peg a classmate of Mari's. The Satos are also devout Christians and church-goers. But their more-or-less happy prewar life is haunted by the memory of Norio, the brilliant eldest son who had graduated college with a degree in chemistry, but had been forced to drive a produce truck due to job discrimination and who had subsequently died of tuberculosis.
The attack on Pearl Harbor brings with it a sudden change of fortune for the Satos. Shigeru is arrested and taken away to an internment camp, and Tad is unceremoniously kicked out of the army, turning the once patriotic Nisei angry and bitter. The freeze on the family bank account leads to financial difficulties, while an unscrupulous neighbor makes a lowball offer to buy the farm. Through it all, Tom remains hopeful, convinced that the country would treat at least the Nisei fairly. But eventually, the entire family is rounded up and sent off to the Poston, Arizona, concentration camp. The rest of the novel follows the ebb and flow of the family's fortunes at Poston: the breakup of the family in the absence of Shigeru, the impact of Tad's poisonous attitude and his embrace of pro-Japan dissidents, Yoshio's descent into juvenile delinquency, and the precipitous decline of Mrs. Sato's health. Meanwhile, Tom works hard on the camp farm, aspiring to volunteer for the army as soon as he is allowed, while falling for Yuri, the beautiful, wealthy, and educated daughter of a famous artist. The rest of the story takes some unexpected turns and ends after their return to La Vista in 1945.
The book includes a foreword by Moto Asakawa and Hiroshi Kamei, two Orange County Nisei who knew author Georgia Day Robertson in camp and an afterword by historian Arthur A. Hansen that tells the story of how the book came to be published and excerpts parts of an oral history he conducted with Robertson in 1979.
Author Georgia Day Robertson (1886–1991) was born and raised on an Iowa farm. Working her way through college, she graduated from Iowa State University and became a teacher and missionary in China where she met and married an American mining engineer and subsequently bore two sons. Widowed early, Robertson completed two masters degrees and taught in various places before moving to Orange County, California, in 1933 where she taught and sold short stories. Looking for a job in the summer of 1942, she learned about the need for teachers in the War Relocation Authority concentration camps and was hired to supervise the math program at Poston by education director Miles Cary. She remained at Poston for the next three years, where she learned much about the lives of the Japanese Americans incarcerated there. In a visit to Iowa after the war, she found that no one there knew what had happened to Japanese Americans and was thus inspired to write the novel, which she completed in 1946. In retirement in the late 1960s, she donated her incarceration-related papers—including a manuscript of the novel—to California State University, Fullerton. Hansen discovered the manuscript and tried for years to track down the author, finally succeeding in 1978. Vowing to publish the manuscript, he conducted oral histories with Robertson in 1979 and tried to raise the funds for publication. The novel was eventually published by the Oral History Program at Fullerton in conjunction with Robertson's 100th birthday in 1986.
Robertson told Hansen that the main characters are all composites and are not based on any particular people. Because she did come to know many people from the San Diego area while at Poston, she decided to place the Satos there and visited Chula Vista after the war, where she interviewed farmers to get details on farm life.
Given Robertson's firsthand experience of life at Poston and her semi-documentary style, there are few historical liberties taken in the description of the Sato family's experiences. One small implausibility is that two families whom the Satos encounter at Poston (the Takedas and the Kawais) are from San Francisco; however nearly all Japanese Americans from there were sent to the Topaz, Utah, concentration camp.
For More Information
Wasden, Winifred S. Review of The Harvest of Hate. The Oral History Review 16.1 (Spring 1988): 162–64. ["Though the book is written in a rather pedantic style, Robertson's intent is laudable, her characters are real, and she explains herself well in the appended interview."]
- Arthur A. Hansen, Afterword, The Harvest of Hate; M. Adams Urashima, "Orange County Author and Educator Georgia Day Robertson: Moved to Write by her Time in Poston," Historic Wintersburg blog, accessed Sept. 10, 2017 at http://historicwintersburg.blogspot.com/2012/03/part-three-of-our-interview-series.html.