Journey to Topaz

First of all, I would like to apologize that I’ve been gone so long.

Remember the realistic fiction unit I did recently? My class has switched to historical fiction, and I have found yet another treasure trove of wonderful stories. Quite a while ago, I reviewed a historical fiction book called The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. Now I’ll review Journey to Topaz by Yoshiko Uchida.

Imagine being in Berkeley, California in December, 1941. Christmas is in the air. You can hardly wait! You think of all the wonderful things that will happen. Nothing can spoil this.

Imagine your surprise, then, on the seventh, when your family is huddled around the radio, and you hear…

“Pearl Harbor has been bombed by Japanese airships. Stay at home and stay calm.”

As a Japanese-American, Yuki is in a very bad position. Facing internment, she and her family must find a way to stay together even as the world around them falls apart.

Journey to Topaz is a heartwarming story. Without being anxiety-inducing, it is compelling and exciting. When I read it, I was overwhelmed by the plot and the prose. every turn was unexpected, but not confusing. Uchida takes her book where no book has gone before. After you read this, I know you will agree.

The Dancers

This is not a book review. It is a thing that I wrote. Anyone out there on Goodreads? If you aren’t, it’s basically a book recommendation website. Recently I got an account, and I joined a group. One of the discussions was a writing contest. This was the prompt:

Write a story that is set in Detroit in 1956 in which a car floor mat plays a crucial role.

(from 642 Things to Write)

This was my response, entitled The Dancers.


June 27, 1956

She buys the green car. She gets in and drives away.

June 28, 1956

She somehow manages to get a record player in here and taps her feet on me in a most annoying way.

June 29, 1956

She’s taken to yelling at people in brown cars about how disgusting brown is and how sleek green is. She seems to forget that I, the very floor mat she taps her feet on, am a very attractive dark ochre.

June 30, 1956

She started dating a man who finds that my friend, the floor mat in the passenger seat, is sandy. He also complains that she yells too loud, and has bad taste in music.

July 1, 1956

She has stopped yelling at other cars and instead curses under her breath.

July 2, 1956

She shook the sand out of my friend last night. He says it had been very itchy and is glad that she did, but he is not glad that she did it only to please her boyfriend because the man’s feet smell.

July 3, 1956

She moved the record player out. I probably would have liked it more if it didn’t play records.

July 4, 1956

She took him to an “Independence Day dance” last night. They came out walking in circles. I could feel her feet shaking on me, and she nearly drove the car into several trees before reaching the driveway and stumbling out. He said that a chicken could drive better.

July 5, 1956

They went to another dance hall last night. When they came out, she had some kind of cup in her hand, and she spilled its contents on me. She then screamed and passed out, and he slammed on the brakes and switched seats with her. He purposefully kept his feet off me for the rest of the ride. At home, he picked her up, brought her inside, and came back out to get me too. He put me in a basket, where I met a Wet Dishtowel, a Stained Apron, and many others. They told me this was the Hamper, and I was going to be Washed.

July 6, 1956

Being Washed means that I was taken to the Laundromat, put into a Contraption, and spun around and around with soap and water. Then I was taken out of the Contraption and put into a similar one, which spun me around and around in dreadful heat. I really thought I was in Hell. Then I was taken out and put back into the car.

July 8, 1956

Last night they went into a dance hall and didn’t come out. The green car was towed and brought to Detroit Used Cars. I am disoriented and confused, but it appears that SHE is gone forever. This is lucky.

July 9, 1956

Today a man put a card on the windshield that said (so the dashboard has told me) “$600″ in scrawled handwriting. Nobody bought the car.

July 10, 1956

Nobody bought the car.

July 11, 1956

Nobody bought the car.

July 12, 1956

An old man looked the car over and said, “Too big.”

July 13, 1956

A man, a woman, two boys, a girl, and a baby came to look at the car. “Too small,” the man declared.

July 14, 1956

Nobody bought the car.

July 15, 1956

He buys the green car. He gets in and drives away…

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