A Piece of Cake (short story)
Creators: Yachiyo Uehara
Short story by Yachiyo Uehara that recalls friendships made while in a concentration camp. In the 1980s, a Nisei woman named Fumi is making a roast when she notices a story about a Heart Mountain reunion in the newspaper. The article triggers memories of her two years at Heart Mountain forty years prior, in particular her work as a waitress in the Block 17 mess hall. A city girl from San Francisco, she is at first treated as an outsider by fellow workers who mostly hailed from rural areas. But through her hard work and skill in the Japanese language, she wins them over, in particular the group's de facto leader, Mrs. Shirota. The story climaxes with a visit to the Shirotas' family barrack, where Mrs. Shirota has secured the rare treat of a manju (rice and sweet bean pastry) that the chefs had managed to concoct. Fumi is particularly taken with the fact that Mrs. Shirota has cut the small treat into four small pieces so that each could enjoy a piece. Back in the present, Fumi wonders if Mrs. Shirota is still alive and if she will be at the reunion.
Author Yachiyo Okubo Uehara (1916–99) was born in Tokyo and arrived in San Francisco at age eight. During World War II, she and her family were forcibly removed from their homes and sent first to the Pomona Assembly Center , then to the Heart Mountain, Wyoming, concentration camp. Like Fumi in the story, Uehara worked as a mess hall waitress at Heart Mountain. She and her husband, Kenji Sumi, left Heart Mountain for New York in May of 1944 to join a younger sister. She later returned to San Francisco in 1950. She began writing short stories while in her sixties in answer to her son wanting to know more about her life history and published a string of autobiographical stories in the 1980s. A Piece of Cake won the 1982 James Clavell American-Japanese Literary Award.