Books
Strawberry Yellow

by Naomi Hirahara
Prospect Park, February 2013, $15.00

Naomi Hirahara’s Strawberry Yellow offers another intriguing look at the lives Japanese-American citizens went on to lead after they were released from internment camps at the end of World War II. Mas Arai, the hero of this tale (after Summer of the Big Bachi and others), survived the bombing of Hiroshima, then returned to the US, his native country, to work as a farm laborer in California’s Central Valley. He now owns a successful gardening business in Los Angeles, but often returns to Watsonville to help out whenever a member of his large extended family falls into trouble. This time out his cousin Shug, a successful strawberry grower, has been murdered on the eve of announcing the creation of a disease- resistant strawberry. Competing strawberry growers and hybridizers, the victim’s mistress, his grieving wife, and several other members of the Arai family all had reasons to want the shifty and cantankerous Shug dead. In author Hirahara’s deft hands (she’s an Edgar winner), the human characters, especially Mas, always make for a compelling read, but the real star of this book is the humble strawberry. Hirahara gives us fascinating details about the strawberry industry, the diseases the delicious fruit is heir to, and the startling fact (to me, at least) that each strawberry strain has a “mother” and a “father.” Hirahara also manages to combine history, science, agriculture, and family drama in such a seamless manner that most readers, after they turn the last page, will head to the Internet to learn more about strawberries—not to mention internment camps, and the long-term side effects of the Hiroshima bombing.

Betty Webb

Naomi Hirahara’s Strawberry Yellow offers another intriguing look at the lives Japanese-American citizens went on to lead after they were released from internment camps at the end of World War II. Mas Arai, the hero of this tale (after Summer of the Big Bachi and others), survived the bombing of Hiroshima, then returned to the US, his native country, to work as a farm laborer in California’s Central Valley. He now owns a successful gardening business in Los Angeles, but often returns to Watsonville to help out whenever a member of his large extended family falls into trouble. This time out his cousin Shug, a successful strawberry grower, has been murdered on the eve of announcing the creation of a disease- resistant strawberry. Competing strawberry growers and hybridizers, the victim’s mistress, his grieving wife, and several other members of the Arai family all had reasons to want the shifty and cantankerous Shug dead. In author Hirahara’s deft hands (she’s an Edgar winner), the human characters, especially Mas, always make for a compelling read, but the real star of this book is the humble strawberry. Hirahara gives us fascinating details about the strawberry industry, the diseases the delicious fruit is heir to, and the startling fact (to me, at least) that each strawberry strain has a “mother” and a “father.” Hirahara also manages to combine history, science, agriculture, and family drama in such a seamless manner that most readers, after they turn the last page, will head to the Internet to learn more about strawberries—not to mention internment camps, and the long-term side effects of the Hiroshima bombing.

Teri Duerr
3063

by Naomi Hirahara
Prospect Park, February 2013, $15.00

Hirahara
February 2013
strawberry-yellow
15.00
Prospect Park