Strawberry Yellow (book)
Creators: Naomi Hirahara
Book cover. Courtesy of Prospect Park Books
View in the Densho Encyclopedia
The fifth book in Naomi Hirahara's Mas Arai Mysteries series finds the Kibei gardener back in his hometown of Watsonville for the funeral of a relative. But the apparent murder of an anti-GMO activist and the suggestion by his widow that the deceased relative may have been murdered plunge Mas into another mystery.
The story begins in 2004, when Mas heads to Watsonville for the funeral of his second-cousin, Shug Arai, an apparently successful strawberry grower. Mas had lived with Shug, Shug's wife Minnie, and several other Nisei in a boarding house after he returned from Hiroshima and had been grateful to them for helping him readjust to America after years away. The aftermath of Shug's death finds family and business in disarray: Sugarberry, a cooperative founded by Japanese American farmers including Shug's father is being challenged by Everbears, a new startup founded by a local tech millionaire. Shug's son Billy now works for Everbears. Billy has also left his wife and children for Laila Smith, the activist who was found murdered. Upon his arrival, Minnie tells Mas of her suspicions that Shug had been murdered, and his initial investigations turn up many irregularities. As in the other Mas Arai books, the key to the murders lies in events that took place during the World War II era and its aftermath.
There are many flashbacks to the resettlement period when Mas joins Shug, Minnie, and the other Nisei in rebuilding their lives after the war. We learn that during the war, a Mexican American family, the Durans, watch over the Arai farm, but that the farm is nonetheless lost due to property tax issues. The parents of one character were no-nos who returned to Japan from Tule Lake , leaving their daughter alone in the U.S. A baseball bat carved in Poston by Shug's father also plays a key role in the plot.