Category Archives: American History

Struggles and Hope During WWII’s Japanese Internment

shanna-3I’m so pleased to welcome back another pal from Women Writing the West, USA Today Bestselling Author Shanna Hatfield. Shanna writes character-driven romances with relatable heroes and heroines. Her historical westerns have been described as “reminiscent of the era captured by Bonanza and The Virginian” while her contemporary works have been called “laugh-out-loud funny, and a little heart-pumping sexy without being explicit in any way.”
Convinced everyone deserves a happy ending, this hopeless romantic is out to make it happen, one story at a time. When she isn’t writing or indulging in chocolate (dark and decadent, please), Shanna hangs out with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller.
Please connect with Shanna online. She loves to hear from readers.

Shanna is happy to offer two chances to win one of her books: one for a digital copy of Garden of Her Heart and the second for an autographed paperback copy of the book. I am pleased to announce that Hebby Roman has won the digital copy and Brigid Amos will receive the signed paperback.  Thanks to all who commented.

Thank you for welcoming me to your blog, Andrea. Such a pleasure to be your guest today.

Life for all Americans changed when Japan brought death and destruction to Pearl Harbor in 1941. The attack drew the United States into a war the nation had steadfastly tried to avoid.

History of the war years often glosses over the fact that thousands of people were placed in internment camps right here in America.

Thousands of German and Italian residents were detained by the government during the war, many at Ellis Island. However, the Japanese Americans bore the brunt of the fear and unrest that swamped the country following the devastation at Pearl Harbor.

Seventy-five years ago this month, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, on February 19, 1942. The order authorized the evacuation of anyone deemed a threat to national security from the West Coast to relocation centers further inland. More than 120,000 men, women, and children of Japanese descent were detained in fifteen assembly centers in the spring of 1942.

Many of these people were born in America, some second or third generation Americans, but their place of birth became irrelevant in the coming days. Those living in the evacuation areas were forced to leave behind their homes, sell their possessions for mere pennies on the dollar, and abandon their businesses to report to assembly centers — or become fugitives in the land they called home.

Eventually, the government moved detainees to isolated, fenced, guarded internment camps located across the United States where the majority of the Japanese Americans stayed until the end of the war.

Research for the Hearts of the War series took me to Portland, Oregon, where I learned about the Portland Assembly Center. Originally, it was the Portland Livestock Exposition Pavilion. The government housed more than 3,500 detainees there under one roof during the summer of 1942 before they were sent to internment camps in California, Idaho, and Wyoming.

The stench of the manure trapped beneath the hastily constructed floor and flies buzzing everywhere added to the trying conditions, especially during the long, hot summer months. Meals were served in a mess hall in shifts. Privacy was nonexistent.

The “apartments” had just enough floor space for about five Army cots. Rough

Photo taken at Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center in Portland, depicting life in the Portland Assembly Center.

Photo taken at Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center in Portland, depicting life in the Portland Assembly Center.

eight-foot high plywood walls divided one family from another. With no ceiling, noises from adjoining families echoed day and night. Yet, in spite of the hardships and trials, gardens were planted, a newspaper started, classes taught, and hope sustained.

I tried to envision what it would be like to live there. To live in such difficult, challenging conditions when the only thing they had done “wrong” was to be born to a Japanese heritage.

What would it be like to be a faced with a choice of doing what your country ordered or what you knew in your heart to be right? Would you follow your heart? Would you forsake everything for love? Would you willing become a fugitive in the land of your birth to save a life?

garden-of-her-heart-coverThe moment the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, life shifted for Miko Nishimura. Desperate to reach the Portland Assembly Center for Japanese-Americans, she’s kicked off the bus miles from town. Every tick of the clock pushes her closer to becoming a fugitive in the land of her birth. Exhausted, she stumbles to her grandparents’ abandoned farm only to find a dying soldier sprawled across the step. Unable to leave him, she forsakes all else to keep him alive.

After crashing his plane in the Battle of the Atlantic, the doctors condemn Captain Rock Laroux to die. Determined to meet his maker beneath a blue sky at his family home, he sneaks out of the hospital. Weary and half out of his mind, he makes it as far as a produce stand he remembers from his youth. Rather than surrender to death, Rock fights a battle of the heart as he falls in love with the beautiful Japanese woman who saves his life.

A poignant, sweet romance, Garden of Her Heart proves love can bloom in unlikely places even under the most challenging circumstances.

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 Here is an excerpt from the story:

Instead, her father stared at him and asked a single question.  “Describe Miko in one word.”

“One word, sir?” Rock asked, confused.

“Yes. If you summed up everything about her in one word, what would it be?” Jack’s face remained impassive as he waited for Rock’s answer.

Taken aback by his request, Rock’s thoughts splintered in a hundred directions. Only a few seconds passed before the word that floated through the maelstrom in his head gained clarity. “Hummingbird.”

Baffled, both Shig and Jack stared in confusion.

“Explain, please,” Jack said.

Rock took a deep breath. “Before I was wounded, I was stationed in Trinidad, off Venezuela’s coast in the southern Caribbean. The area is a big melting pot of combined cultures — Creole, East Indian, Chinese, African. A great diversity of flowers and shrubbery grow there, and it offers more than four hundred different species of birds. But do you know what they call the island?”

At the men’s interested looks, Rock continued. “Land of the Hummingbird. While I was there, I saw many of them. The islanders believe hummingbirds are symbols of all that is good and they carry joy wherever they go. Hummingbirds are fearless, determined, adaptable, and flexible. They possess the courage of a mighty lion and the magic of mythical fairies. Hummingbirds have boundless energy and endurance. Those little birds can make the most difficult journey seem like a simple matter, and they are loyal, devoted to the garden they claim as their own. They are fiercely independent, but those who accept that can long enjoy the beauty and wonder of those amazing little winged fellows.”

Jack’s mouth quirked upward and he bit back a smile. “So you’re saying Miko is like a demented bird who wants only to suck the sweetness out of life?”


Following Maria’s Journey by Anne Schroeder

anne-croppedFellow member of Women Writing the West and Past-President (2015), Anne Schroeder writes memoir and historical fiction set in the West. She has won awards for her short stories published in print and on-line markets. She and her husband, along with their new Lab puppy, live in Southern Oregon where they explore old ruins and out-of-the-way places. Her new release, Maria Ines, is a novel about an Indian girl who grows up under Padre Junipero’s cross and endures life under the Spanish, Mexican and Yanqui conquest of California.  You can learn more about Anne at and read her blog at Continue reading

Because of Virginia City

Blaire EdensBlaire Edens is another fellow author from the Good, the Bad and the Ghostly.  She lives in the mountains of North Carolina. She grew up on a farm that’s been in her family since 1790. Of Scottish descent, her most famous ancestor, John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch and Guardian of Scotland, was murdered by Robert the Bruce on the altar of the Greyfriars Church at Dumfries. Continue reading

Native American Slavery


headFellow member of Women Writing the West, Alethea Williams is the author of Willow Vale, the story of a Tyrolean immigrant’s journey to America after WWI. Willow Vale won a 2012 Wyoming State Historical Society Publications Award. In her second novel, Walls for the Wind, a group of New York City immigrant orphans arrive in Hell on Wheels, Cheyenne, Wyoming. Walls for the Wind is a WILLA Literary Award finalist, a gold Will Rogers Medallion winner, and placed first at the Laramie Awards in the Prairie Fiction category. Continue reading

Does the West Define America?

Frederick Jackson Turner

Frederick Jackson Turner

A few months ago, Amazon came up with one of its ‘suggested reading’ promotions that actually interested me. It was a book, obviously meant for students of history, called ‘Does the Frontier Experience Make America Exceptional?’ What an interesting question, I thought: does it? Continue reading


When I was in school, Francis Parkman’s The Oregon Trail was on my reading list. At the age of thirteen, the formal writing and the lengthy, detailed descriptions of a time, scenery and people who did not in the least interest me, turned me towards another choice of book. So here I am, some fifty years later, with other interests, more tolerance, and certainly a more receptive mind.

Francis Parkman

Francis Parkman

Francis Parkman was born into an aristocratic Boston family, son of a well-connected and wealthy Unitarian minister. Plagued by illness most of his childhood, he was often sent into the countryside in an attempt to make him more robust. This, combined with his own enjoyment of James Fenimore Cooper’s novels, seems to have had a lasting effect on the young man whose walks in the woods always entailed carrying a rifle, just as his hero, Hawkeye, did. Continue reading


IMG_1890One of the highlights of my recent cross-country road trip was Estes Park, gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. And how could it not be a highlight? Here is scenery that both inspires and excites in a corner of Colorado once called the ‘Switzerland of America.’ One of several wide valleys at around 8,000 feet, which include North Park, Middle Park, South Park, and Winter Park, FullSizeRender-18Estes Park itself was renowned for its beauty. Continue reading

Why Augusta?

taken at the Daniel Boone Homestead

taken at the Daniel Boone Homestead

Every time someone has asked us what our itinerary is for this trip, everything is fine until I mention Augusta, Missouri. ‘Why Augusta?’, or ‘What’s in Augusta?’ invariably is asked. So here, in black and white, is the truth of the matter. We considered St. Louis as being on our route but, having included Charlotte, Nashville and Memphis, I rather felt that we were getting heavy on the cities and wanted a change. I might have liked Independence for its historical significance but it didn’t quite fit into the driving, and I’d recently been to Kansas City so nixed that. In the end, when we discovered Augusta was one of the centers of Missouri wine country, also offered Daniel Boone’s Homestead, and had the bonus of the historic Katy trail for Cristal to run, it seemed like an excellent choice.

Daniel Boone Homestead

Daniel Boone Homestead

Well, choices are one thing, reality often proves another. Our little cottage is charming and we made some local antique purchases this morning as well as visiting the workshop of a local glassblower and making another purchase there. But when it came to Dan’l Boone’s Home, after a twenty minute drive, we discovered the tours went out on the hour and we would have a forty-five minute wait in stifling heat. So we hurried through their self-guide tour of the homestead and village buildings—not permitted to enter any without a proper guide—and in a rather sorry state decided to return home. Without wine.

Some days just have hiccoughs.

Peace Church in the village at Boone Homestead

Peace Church in the village at Boone Homestead


Living room at Graceland

Living room at Graceland

Visiting Graceland would not be my first choice of vacation destination, but if you’re doing a road trip which passes through Memphis, well, it would be foolish to not stop. I was still in single digit age when Elvis was ‘King’ but it didn’t stop a brief flirtation with the swivel- hipped heart-throb before allegiance passed to the Beatles. There’s very little I remember about him other than the early songs and a controversial appearance on

Trophy Room at Graceland

Trophy Room at Graceland

The Ed Sullivan Show when he was only televised from the waist up. So, my ideas on what I would see at Graceland were somewhat negative: I was wrong. If you accept that it is a time capsule of ‘70s décor and know the shag pile is coming your way, it’s all very well done. I did rather feel like I had stepped into The Twilight Zone at times, but

In the 'Jungle Room' at Graceland

In the ‘Jungle Room’ at Graceland

aside from that, enjoyed the visit. Of course, it’s all highly edited so no photos of Elvis in the bloated years are shown, no mention of divorce is made, and certainly no whiff of drugs. It’s the sanitized version of which Col. Parker would have approved.

After a lunch of Gus’ World Famous Fried Chicken—one

Lunch at Gus'

Lunch at Gus’

hiccough in our healthy eating routine—we went on to the National Civil Rights Museum, housed in the Lorraine Motel. This was definitely not sanitized. It starts with a gut-punch on how whites kidnapped Africans in the 1600s, and goes on through the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. at that very same Lorraine Motel and the capture of James Earl Ray. The museum doesn’t mind pointing out that Lincoln only instigated the Emancipation Proclamation as a

The Lorraine Motel--now the National Civil Rights Museum

The Lorraine Motel–now the National Civil Rights Museum

political act to subdue the South rather than to actually free the slaves, and that the wealth of the North was as much based on slavery in the South as the South’s own economy.

I’m not going to get involved in this argument; I’ll leave it there. I did, however, buy a baseball cap—something I never wear—which says, “Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History.”


IMG_1805There’s a certain irony that Charlotte hit 99 degrees today. When Cristal and I were planning our trip, we originally included GA, LA, FL and TX, but decided against them as being too hot in June. Such is life.

The heat hasn’t stopped us, however, from enjoying our day. We chose Charlotte as a stop on the way to Nashville because my ol’ college buddy, Laurie Graybeal, and her husband, John Gresham, live here. Laurie and I see each other sporadically, although this year has been a bonus year with a catch-up in NYC as well as this visit. So, there is at least one benefit to having your friends spread around the USA.

IMG_1800Earlier in the day, Cristal and I visited the Levine Museum of the New South, a wonderful venue covering how Charlotte and the South have changed since the 1800s, from cotton to skyscrapers as they displayed. Of course, as far as civil rights are concerned, they’ve come a long way…but still have a way to go.IMG_1803

As do we, as do we…