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Saturday, June 04, 2005


Currently reading David Neiwert's Strawberry Days. It's about the WWII internment camps the US set up to hold Japanese-Americans. Well, it will be, I just haven't gotten that far. I'm only a few dozen pages in, and am learning all about the protectionist and xenophobic hysteria the country, especially the west coast, was going through in the late 1800's. [For some reason, they didn't teach kids this stuff in upstate NY "social studies" (ie History Plus!) classes in the 80's. Actually, maybe they did - I don't remember anything from those classes.]

So, I'm reading about how lawmakers of the time played up the immigration protectionism issue: make trade agreements with Japan, but only if they promise to stop people from coming here to work; try to make it illegal for Japanese and Chinese to ever become American citizens, etc.; and how some polticians took the low road and encouraged vigliantes to take matters into their own hands (burning houses, shooting people, etc.). All of it was caried out with the same rhetoric we hear today about immigrants from other parts of the world: they're too different from real Americans and will never assimilate; they'll work for nothing and are taking jobs from real Americans; they send home for their friends and relatives and bring them all here to take even more jobs; they're going to mix with white people and dilute the race; they're [insert negative personality trait], etc.. Why, it's almost as if there's a set of stock arguments that get reused whenever some new immigrant group arrives on the scene and the old timers feel uneasy. But, I'm sure that'll all go away once I get into the part about the internment camps...

On another note, I just finished Jonathan Lethem's Men And Cartoons, which is a slim collection of short stories. They're all about superheroes or comics or detectives, in some way, and they all seem to be cut from the same cloth as his most recent novels - especially Fortress of Solitude. Some of the stories are set in the same neighborhoods as FoS, or feature the same characters or situations, with slightly different, usually fantastic, twists. But these fantasy/sci-fi twists recall his eariler gritty sci-fi stuff (my favorite of all his styles), and that saves a lot of them them from being simply short remixes of scenes from of Fortress of Solitude and Motherless Brooklyn.

Now, I need to get through Strawberry Days in time for the next Harry Potter (so I don't have to plug my ears when everyone around me starts talking about the plot). And then I wait for the next from Jeff VanderMeer. Busy book summer.

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