War brides. They were out there, often alone in a world of white, figuring out how to fit in. In my Japanese mother’s case, she was in the midst of Midwestern cornfields raising children who were the only non-white bread in their school system. In the last few years of putting together her life story, I realized that almost no one in the US knew much about civilian life in Japan during WWII and few knew much about the Japanese women who married Occupation-era soldiers and immigrated to new and very foreign lands. I did know that wrong and unpleasant ideas about them existed. This is when I decided to formally publish Cherry Blossoms in Twilight, which happened in 2005. Two years later (and after I had learned a thing or two more about writing and publishing), I published a more polished second edition to include more information and photos. Cherry Blossoms can be found in the libraries of some major US universities and even one in the UK, I’m sure not because my writing is so awesome,* but because the story is so rare.
I was happy to see a big article recently in the Washington Post on Japanese war brides. Quite a few people sent me the link. The article publicizes the newly released short documentary Fall Seven Times, Get Up Eight featuring the “largely untold story” of Japanese war brides, or at least three of them; their stories, however, are familiar to me and likely to many children of war brides. These women are in their eighties now, so it’s taken all these years since the end of WWII in 1945 for their stories to come to light to the general public. Some war brides have never told their stories to their own families.
More than Japanese war brides are out there in the world. Some of my mother’s friends included a British war bride and a Vietnamese war bride. I wonder if their children know their mothers’ stories of surviving a war that devastated their country, marrying a foreign man and starting a completely new life far away. If your mother or grandmother is a war bride, ask the questions that will start your own family memoir.
*It is more important when writing other peoples’stories from their first-person perspective to be true to their words and stories rather than polishing them up so much that their family and friends don’t recognize them speaking. If you’ve read Cherry Blossoms or any of my other books, please leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads as they are valuable to us little publishers. Well, terrible reviews aren’t, but 3-stars or better we appreciate – thanks!