Dandelion Through the Crack/Kiyo's Story (book)
Creators: Kiyo Sato
Book cover. Courtesy of Willow Valley Press
View in the Densho Encyclopedia
Memoir by a Nisei woman of farm life in Sacramento, her family's wartime incarceration, and their struggles to reestablish their lives after the war.
The memoir begins with the fear and uncertainty the Sato family faces on the eve of their forced removal in 1942, as the eighteen-year old Kiyo finds herself followed by a police car while searching for suitcases outside of the five-mile curfew limit. We then go back to her father Shinji's migration to the U.S. at age 14 in 1911 and his work as a farm laborer up and down the West Coast. Two years later, his brother joins him, and eventually he saves up enough money to return to Japan to marry, choosing Tomomi, a nurse two years his senior whom he meets in Tokyo. Eventually, the Satos purchase a farm in Sacramento County in 1929 (evading the Alien Land Law ), with each brother taking twenty acres. Kiyo is born in 1923 and eight more children come in the intervening years. The narrative includes many detailed stories of family farm life in the prewar years: the difficult work on the farm that is balanced with lively family dinners and soaking in a hot bath each night; walking miles to a one-room schoolhouse taught by a woman protective and supportive of her Nisei pupils; and the colorful stories Shinji would tell the children throughout the day.
This life is brought to a sudden halt by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. After their house is ransacked by FBI agents, they are forcibly removed in May of 1942, first to the Pinedale Assembly Center , then to Poston . Kiyo is among the first Nisei to leave the concentration camps, leaving in September 1942 to attend Hillsdale College in Michigan. Supporting herself by working multiple jobs, she also is asked frequently to speak to local community groups about her experience. After graduating in 1944, she rejoins her family in Colorado, where they work picking sugar beets. In January 1945, she goes back to Sacramento to check on the fate of the family farm, which had been left in the hands of a family friend. She finds it in poor repair, with another family living in the house. Her family returns two months later and over the next few years, rebuilds and reestablishes the farm. Kiyo goes on to nursing school and does a stint in the Air Force. The narrative moves on to 1954, when she and a cousin are able to visit her father's family home in Japan and to 1975, when she is a divorced mother of four. The book ends with a chapter on her mother's death in 1977 and with a letter to her father that updates him on the various children and grandchildren to time of the book's publication.
Published in 2007 as Dandelion Through the Crack: The Sato Family Quest for the American Dream , it was republished two years later as Kiyo's Story: A Japanese-American Family's Quest for the American Dream by Soho Press.
Might also like: Looking Like the Enemy: My Story of Imprisonment in Japanese-American Internment Camp by Mary Matsuda Gruenewald; Gasa Gasa Girl Goes to Camp by Lily Yuriko Nakai Havey; The Little Exile by Jeanette A. Arakawa