November 2014 Bar Bulletin
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November 2014 Bar Bulletin

Japanese Roses: A Novel Journey

By Theresa R. Lorella

 

When I was in the first grade, I came home one day and very definitively announced that I was going to be a lawyer or a writer someday. I had just discovered the school library and was quickly developing my love of reading. I have no idea how my 6-year-old self came up with the lawyer thing.

Over the years, reading became not only a pastime, but a way to learn about the world. Graduating from college with my degree in history and an interest in human rights, law school seemed the way to go even when an advisor suggested writing novels. For the next three years, the last thing on my mind was writing a novel or two between writing briefs and reading cases.

After a few years of practice in family law, I found myself drawn again to my interest in history and human rights and remembered my bygone dream of becoming an author. Although it took a bit of time to remember how to write creatively (instead of legally), I have found that my legal education and practice have informed my novel writing in ways that I hadn't expected. By the time that I began my first novel, Japanese Roses: A Novel of the Japanese American Internment, I realized that there was no reason that I couldn't be both a lawyer and an author.

In all of that free time that comes with the early years of a family law practice, I found myself collecting and researching everything I could find about the Japanese Americans here in King County who were interned during the Second World War. I had been inspired when I learned that large portions of Bellevue, where I grew up, had once been Japanese strawberry fields. Bellevue Square, the Coca-Cola offices and the Midlakes area were all owned by Japanese American families prior to 1942.

Of course, down in Pierce County, the Puyallup Fairgrounds was closed to the public while it served as Camp Harmony Relocation Center, a camp that served as the temporary home for 7,390 people as they waited to be sent out for "permanent" relocation. Magnuson Park was named for the senator who was a huge proponent of the internment. Really, we are surrounded by silent testaments to this period of history. My interest piqued, I set out to find out everything that I could about this topic.

While I certainly used the skills that I had learned as a history major, I found that I was equally using research skills that I had learned in law school and practice. In essence, I "Shepardized" the material. The result was that I read just about everything I could find in print or online. The materials were prolific.

The materials also revealed a shockingly racist time in our county's history. Local leaders, politicians and citizens alike were not only proponents of sending their Japanese and Japanese American neighbors to prison camps, but they had no qualms about expressing these thoughts in openly hateful manners. While there were likely exceptions that have not made the history books, our colleagues of the past were often no better.

Certainly the internment was condoned not only by the government, but by the Supreme Court itself. As many may recall, Korematsu, the case that affirmed the executive order to imprison American citizens based on their ethnic heritage, was never overruled. When the Court ruled in Endo to end the internment, it was not because it determined it had been wrong, but because the Court determined that there was no longer a need for internment because the war was reaching its end.


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