Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Update: "Bamboo Grove" to Stay in Classroom

So Far from the Bamboo Grove by Yoko Kawashima Watkins, recently challenged by some Massachusettes parents, will stay in the classroom:
A divisive book about the aftermath of war will remain in sixth-grade classrooms because the Dover-Sherborn Regional School Committee voted last night to revamp the English lesson to better reflect the story's historical context. "So Far from the Bamboo Grove" by Massachusetts author Yoko Kawashima Watkins was challenged by a group of 13 parents who said it was racist against Koreans and too graphic for sixth-graders. The award-winning book is Watkins's story, told through her eyes when she was 11 , of escaping Korea after World War II with her family and the horrors they experienced and witnessed on their way to Japan. Some parents argued that it wrongly ignores the atrocities committed by the Japanese while they occupied Korea.

13 Comments:

Anonymous melonbarmonster said...

I'm sure that a well-written, emotional, sympathetic book can be written about Hitler's sister too. Would you support such a book also? Yoko's father was a high-level official in Manchuria where Camp Ishii(Unit 731) was located. This is where bio weapons were tested on koreans and chinese as well as vivasection performed on civilians and pregnant women. As a high offical, Yoko's father also oversaw forced conscription of Korean workers to perform slave labor in death mining camps in Japan. He also probably oversaw the collection of rice and other harvest in the fall from the Koreans farmers to ship to Japan. He also had to oversee dealing with beheading North Korean Christians who refused to bow to the emperor of the master race. What a sad, sad tragedy this has all become.

10:48 PM  
Anonymous vindicated said...

I'm so glad the backlash for this book is finally coming... when I was in middle school and raged against it in class, my white American teacher just patronized me and made me look like a freak. The Japanese people have to accept that confronting the truth is the only way to reconcile with the past and move on.

11:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's very sad that so many people, including teachers, cannot understand why this book is offensive. The DS Reg. School Committee has slapped the families in the face who had the courage to protest it.

9:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Historical facts, January 21, 2007
Reviewer: S. Yoon (NJ United States) - See all my reviews

Author needs to explain many strange historical facts. My guess is that she probably can't. This makes this book a great fiction that duped so many in dumb westerners. She did it so well that this fiction and warped history became middle school reading material.
She says that her father spent 6 years in a prison, her family had reward on their heads, and came through Hamkyungdo from Manchuria. Well, only notorious unit 731 members were the ones that served sentences (many 6 years to be exact), who were excluded from both POW list and war criminals. Her recounts matches where the unit was stationed and how over two thousand family members of the unit evacuated. Not to mention many of the characters like Takeda Kazuzo and others are recorded member of the unit.
Okay may be she did not know that her daddy killed people for experiments to create WMD. As Japanese, I am sure she's quite good at hiding inconvenient truth. Let's dive into few historical inaccuracies in her book, where she demonstrates her talents.
She says that her train was bombed. No record of American bombers hitting Korean targets in July 1945 exists. That because B-29 could not reach the area she mentions in the book from the bases in Pacific. And Russia did not enter into the war until August. May be Japanese planes bombed her train?
She also mentions taking North Korean Communist army uniforms from a dead soldier and being chased by them. Sorry, People's Liberation Army was not formed until February of 1948. May be it was Japanese soldiers who were after them? The raping and murdering were consistent traits of Japanese army.
Japanese army did not disarm until American army took over much later, which makes them only armed force in the peninsula until months later after her escape.
In fact, many Koreans died even after Japan surrendered. So, poor Japanese women being hunted down and being raped may be good for western emotional appeal, but very far from the truth.
The title of the book mentions bamboo groves in Hamkyungdo. As anyone who lived in Seoul knows, even the capital, which is located in middle of the country, is too cold to grow bamboo. Hamkyungdo is at the very northern tip of Korea and known for its harsh winter. Even with warming earth, bamboo groves does not exists, except at the southern tip of the peninsula.
Bravo, amazing and warped imagination. I give it 5 stars for being hideously creative.
If you want history, then just watch the film "Nanking." And don't let your middle school children watch. Japanese army engaged in wholesale rape and murder. You may see images of head chopping contest, bayoneting infants, and burning/burying people alive.
Her message of love and peace is nice, but not if it's built on falsehood. Especially, this piece of warped history should not be taught to impressionable middle school children as historical truth

5:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have found the comments here very interesting.

Please also note the As if comments by Carol Chittenden.

She writes..."Please be aware of this confrontation and re-read the books...if there is a Korean American in your community this is even more like."

She also is kind enough to share that she is a good friend of Yoko's...but I don't think she knows the historical issues that Koreans Americans are raising in the blog sites.

6:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

fucking ridiculous.

7:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These books by Mrs. Watkins have caused many emotional anger reactions from Koreans. Many of you stated the fallacy in her fiction but no one seems to be asking her for any action. Would it not be easier if she came out and said its fiction and she is sorry? Ask her to admit that she changed details to capture the naive hearts of innocence? Yes, her story does not have merits but people gave her awards for well-written fiction. We should be asking the publishers to do a better job in checking backgrounds, award givers to check details for non-fictions?

Mrs. Watkins, please tell us the truth!!! Was it indeed your story? How much of the real facts are this book? If you are calling it the true story of your life, which one of you is the one with imaginations? The adult that wrote it or the eleven year old that escaped Korean peninsula? Why are so many inaccuracies? We do have the freedom of press and speech in this wonderful country and they are for telling truth. We call a fiction a fiction. Are you telling these little children its okay to lie at eleven? Or having a vague memory at eleven is ok? Were you confused with the uniform colors? What are you really telling the innocence of children? Its okay to make up stories and abuse our freedom that our found fathers fought for with their blood can be abused for money? Was it the money? Furthermore, the financial gains from these fiction books should be donated to the families that were victimized during the Japanese colonization. Not enjoyed by you. Especially if your father was really a member of “731” You need to consider there are people who are still alive from that "Horrific Era" and still remembers what really happened during the Japanese colonization of Korean peninsula. So, please do what's the honorable thing!! Tell us the truth, publicly or take the SHAME to your grave!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As to you, Carol Chittenden! Keep your personal opinions to yourself, as you seem to have financial gains for yourself before understanding the facts. Since you are also serving the public, you should only come out of your shell when you can endorse facts. The facts are, there are too many inconsistencies and fallacies in this non-fiction. Or are you selling as a fiction? Far Too many inaccuracies and inconsistencies to consider her own personal stories. The truth of ones life story being told as a fiction should not be an activity that’s congratulated. You also should tell the facts instead of speaking with two tongues. Your opinions seem to have similar interests. Money and Dishonor?!!

Lastly, How much did Mrs. Watkins really donate to your school? Please be serious!!

12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with both sides of this issue. I hesitate to take a book away from any curriculum. On the flip side, I can only begin to understand the hurt of these Korean families. As a middle school teacher, myself, I have read and taught this book in my career. I do think it has valid themes and lessons about hate, violence, family, loss, homelessness, etc. and I do feel Ms. Watkins is a sensitive speaker. However, I do not feel that this book can be read without some other text, sharing the truth that happened before Bamboo Grove... a text that shares a Korean perspective, promotes a much more rounded historical view, and encourages kids to come to conclusions about the validity of the book on their own. As a book in an English class, where history is not the primary objective, the characters, plot, and themes are powerful and promising, but in our global society, it needs to be balanced so that kids can be aware of cultural and historical sensitivities. In fact, I feel that anywhere the book is being read, this Massachusetts situation should be shared for a balanced approach, too. How powerful for kids to see the power the written word can have and recognize the importance of viewing all literary matter with scrutiny. I'm sure the kids in Massachusetts will be looking at this book in a different way with all of this having happened.

2:21 PM  
Blogger heeki said...

How the hell is this book appropriate for classrooms??? Do we teach survival stories of KKK children where the antagonists are civil rights activists and black people????????? What the hell is wrong some of you people?

9:37 AM  
Anonymous Al Yang said...

I feel sorry for those towns and schools that have recommended this book for their students. It is like suggesting children to read a story about how Germen escaped Paris or Japanese soldiers were brutally killed by G.I in Iwo Jima near the end of World War II without defining "Who started that war". The personal experience in this book and historical facts vastly contradict each other.

2:23 AM  
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8:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This "memoir" is infuriating. The teacher, in an "effort" to balance the story, played a tape of a story of a Korean girl who lived during that time, then had us compare the two girls. But truthfully, it just paints an even worse image of Koreans. Unless teachers can find an honest account of what happened to the Japanese after the war, or unless Mrs. Watkins takes responsibility for her actions, schools shouldn't teach this book. The students don't care about the "themes" that appear in this story, especially when they find out that this book is complete bull****. To sum it up, the author is a b****, and so are any people who say that this book is completely fine and that there is nothing wrong about lying.

4:50 PM  

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