Hunt for the Bamboo Rat

ratIn 1941, seventeen-year-old Zenji Watanabe is Japanese born in America, a Nisei, with the gift of language.  Colonel Blake sees that gift and offers Zenji an opportunity to travel from Honolulu, Hawaii, to places like Manila, but that opportunity comes with a price beyond the patriotism, strange excitement, and pay check valued by Zenji.

With the code name Bamboo Rat and his bilingual gifts, Zenji is recruited as a low profile, military spy.  In that role, he learns the difference between civilian Japan and military Japan.  He also discovers the difficulty in befriending those whom he may have to betray and confronts the dilemmas in a country’s expansion, resource sharing, and survival.

Surrounded by death and destruction, frightened, intimidated, and tortured, Zenji calls on his integrity and his Buddhist learned compassion, but for four years, he struggles to persevere, endure, and stand tall.   Knowing that people all over the world gaze at the same stars connects him to humanity and gives him hope for a peaceful coexistence.  Still, “there [is] a great difference between how Japanese in Japan [see] the world and how Japanese living in the U.S. [see] things” (95).

Through his novel Hunt for the Bamboo Rat, Graham Salisbury gives readers a glimpse at the World War II experience from the perspective of a young American of Japanese ancestry.  With Zenji, we encounter prejudice, the evils of hate and war, and the power of words to worm their way into the corners of the mind, to work their dark or quiet magic.

  • Posted by Donna

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