Picture Bride by Yoshiko Uchida

picturebride_yoshikouchidaPicture Bride, a novel by Yoshiko Uchida, is the story of a teenage girl named Hana who is sent to America. She carries a picture of a man she has been arranged to marry but has yet to meet. Traveling an ocean away from her once noble Japanese family, Hana is promised that in America, she will live a life of comfort with her merchant husband, Taro Takeda. Hana is devastated when she finds not a successful merchant in San Francisco, but an impoverished shopkeeper who can barely provide for himself. However, despite her many trials, Hana and her husband learn to be happy in a marriage that seemed doomed to fail. San Francisco was not kind to Japanese immigrants in the mid-twentieth century, and Hana soon found herself faced with racism and hardships, all leading up to the one event that would change her life: the Japanese internment camps.

This novel has become one of my all time favorites, not only because of the wonderful writing style that Uchida uses, but because of his portrayal of Hana Takeda. Hana shows us rare insight into the mind of a young immigrant woman. Forced into a situation that she cannot control, Hana learns to adapt to a society that seems out to get her from the moment she sets foot on its shores. In her time period, women’s rights, especially those of an immigrant woman, were stifled. Hana was expected to be a homemaker and a mother. Graceful and dignified, Hana dares to quietly go against the norms of her culture and become an independent woman who struggles to adapt to a foreign nation and values.

-Mirabella S.

Picture Bride by Yoshiko Uchida is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

In a world where most people are loners comes a tale of two marvelous friends and the obstacles that cross their paths. It’s 1930’s California in the Salinas Valley. Most men who come through are looking for one thing: work. All of them travel from farm to farm, working alone.
This is not true for George Milton and Lennie Small. After being kicked out of Weed because of something Lennie did, they travel together on to the next farm with hopes and dreams of money to buy land: a few acre land with a small house and freedom from the bosses and a little patch for Lennie’s rabbits (he’s really obsessed with rabbits). There on the next farm they met people with hopes and dreams, and learn the basis for reality: dreams will get crushed.
This story is far by one of my favorites. Although (spoiler) the ending is quite sad, there are times when I laughed hard. By the way, the mice part is a metaphor: there is only one mouse, and it’s dead. The title comes from the poem “To a Mouse, On Turning up her Nest with a Plough”: “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men” go astray, saying that we have hopes and dreams, but something shatters them (which describes the book very well).
Steinbeck worked on a farm once, so he knows, and describes very well, the life on a farm in 1930 or so. At times, it’s also a little hard to read because of the Californian accent. However, some good advice is to say it out loud. For example, “purty” is actually “pretty”. Even so, I encourage you to read this book! After I read it, I gave it a two thumbs up. Interestingly, the characters talk about a “cat house” a lot. It’s meaning is actually something different in modern times.
-Megan V., 9th grade

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

Who’s heard of Of Mice and Men? I don’t mean the band; I’m talking about the famous John Steinbeck book set in the life of the farmers who worked in California in the 1930s.

If you do of who I’m talking about, and also like Of Mice and Men, then you’re in luck. John Steinbeck wrote multiple books about people living in California including one of my personal favorites, Cannery Row.
This book is about the life of the people who lived along the streets of Cannery Row in Monterrey: drunks, a famous doctor, the Chinese man who owns a successful grocery store, even the gopher looking for a mate.
Most of the book talks about how each person goes about their life, but the main story is about a humorous group of men who travel from job to job, their plans to throw the famous doctor a party, and what goes wrong.
Along with a simple, no evil guys, slice of life story, there is comedy and a real life example of how people lived in the 1940s after the war. There are also themes of loners, but there is the lesson that someone is always there to support you.
It’s a little hard to read, but I found this book amazing and encourage you to read it.
-Megan V., 9th grade
Cannery Row is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library