Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Because of the enormous tragedy brought to Japan by the tsunami and its disastrous affect on one of their nuclear power plants, I, like everyone else I know, have had the people of that country constantly on my mind. I read the updates on line to find out what is happening with the reactors. I listen with awe to the stories of the plant personnel walking into certain death with only the hope that they can do something to help their neighbors. And, of course, I pray.
When I want to know what's going on with any world event I go to our news outlets. But when I want to know how people feel I go to the world of fiction. Because that's where the most powerful emotions and thoughts are documented. This time I wanted to know about the Japanese people, so I chose the book Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata. This may seem like an odd choice, because it is a book about Japanese Americans living first in Iowa then in Georgia and because it is a book intended for young people. But it turned out to be exactly what I was looking for.
Kira-Kira is the story of a young Japanese American whose sister suffers with lymphoma. Katie loves her sister. She also looks up to Lynn as a role model and as a parent figure. They live in poverty and their parents have to spend most of their time just trying to put food on their table. That is why Lynn is in many ways the person raising Katie.
I loved the way the book captured many aspects of the Japanese culture, but remained focused on more universal qualities such as family love. Katie's father is strong, yet gentle. He is willing to do anything for his family and is frustrated when some problems are beyond his power.
The book is beautifully written and had me in tears during some of the most emotional scenes. It gave me a sense of how people deal with loss from a Japanese perspective and that's what I wanted. It is a wonderful story.
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