NOTHING HAPPENED AND THEN IT DID: A CHRONICLE IN FACT AND FICTION By Juke Silverstein W.W. NORTON 231 PAGES, $23.95 what they had left behind, and when some died at Manzanar, never returning to their homes, I was stunned. These Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans were “owned”having lost the freedom to live “normal” lives. Some marched off to Manzanar were not Japanese immigrants, but merely ancestrally connected to Japan. In “Manzanar,” the character Jim Hosokawa, after being sent to the camp, asks, “How was it we thought we could become fully American, unassailably patriotic American, and get away with the illusion for so long?” Then Hosokawa gives us the answer: “Fortytwo years in my case.” Jim Hosokawa, renowned Issei intellectual and community leader, founder of at least five literary journals for exile-minded Japanese over his lifetime, restrainer of hotheaded Kibei too enamored of the emperor’s charms, one-time manager of the most dignified hotel on the Seattle waterfront, importer of teas and herbs, exporter of machinery, shipper, wholesaler, middleman, broker, insurance maven, and icon of extreme moderation in all things worldly and Olympian; lover of … middle-of-the-road politicians, Mr. Roosevelt’s New Deal before it became old, improbable dances, and peace in the world; and the single most important moderating influence on the Japanese American Citizens League …” Another Hosokawa line resonates powerfully: Some profile. Forty-two years of forgetting and not wanting to remember, then suddenly, I’m forced to remember. Old Japan, mist-shrouded Kyoto temples, houses frail as matchboxes, narrow streets that one traversed with the head down … and always a profound silence, which prevented coming to terms with history. After reading Shivani’s story, it was all I could talk about for days. It did what good fiction should: It triggered response, engagement and, in this case, conversations about how American citizens and resident aliens could be, and still are, arrested without wrong doing. “Manzanar” boggles the mindthat such camps could have existed under our Bill of Rights. These stories offer what textbook accounts do notthe human component, the reality of personal suffering under the guise of a country’s “safety.” The personal component is showcased, highlighted, made haunting. In “Dubai,” the first story of this collection, Ram, an undocumented Indian worker in Dubai who continued working despite his lack of documentation, finds that “[s]omething tells him he must leave Dubai before he’s made to.” We see Dubai through visceral descriptions as his story unfolds: “Not even Friday makes Dubai really slow down,” and “Already, well before noon, the most devout among the Emirati worshippers are making their way to the Grand Mosque, their flowing white dishdashas starched and sparkling, their headscarves tightly tied by the black aghal.” “Gypsy” called up my childhood and its reminders of the immigrant cultures where fathers seek to marry off their daughters to men within their circle. daughter, “They’ll visit to formally seek your hand.” “I was thirteen,” the daughter reminds him later. In my own story, I was 15 or 16 when “callers” came to pursue the daughter of a reputable SyrianAmerican man. Unlike me, the daughter in “Gypsy” marries; later in life, she finds herself alone, almost relishing the independence she initially craved, but had not been allowed. A line in the story that spotlights the immigrant spirit of resilience and tenacity struck me. Uncle Vlad \(not unlike my father and my uncles who immi”The Rom will go on until the end of time. We’ll figure out new ways to survive.” LI Marian Haddad is an NEH recipient, writer and Pushcart-nominated poet living in San Antonio. Her latest collection of poems is Somewhere between Mexico and a River Called Home BOOK REVIEW Fact Over Fiction by AKE SILVERSTEIN IS PAINFULLY SUCCESSFUL. The 35-year-old California native is editor of Texas Monthly and a contributing editor at Harper’s Magazine. He won a PEN-USA Journalism Award in 2007 and was a 2002 Fulbright scholar. He’s handsome. Like, baby-faced, twinkle eyed, your-grandmother-has-a-crush-on-him hand some. I was sad that his author’s photo didn’t feature him cradling a Labrador. His first book, Nothing Happened and Then It Did: A Chronicle in Fact and Fiction, seems designed to conceal Silverstein’s epic wins. In Nothing Happened, the protagonistJake Silversteinis a young, hapless, ruminating ex-poet and wannabe journalist wandering the deserts of Far West Texas and Mexico, chasing stories that never pan out and getting scooped by the New Yorker. He sleeps in flophouses, loses months chasing red herrings, runs out of money, gets yelled at, takes odd jobs as a driver, dishwasher and groundskeeper. He wonders, as his aging Toyota begins to clank, “If the car died, and I hiked up into the hills to live on ketchup packets and prairie dogs, would anyone even know I was missing?” Nothing Happened is filed under fiction, and Silverstein is not the first author to use his own name and life to write a sort-of fictional memoir. He is the first to explicitly divvy these up, to subdivide his chapters into “Fiction” and “Fact” and swear by the veracity of the latter and the originality of the former. Nothing Happened has four chapters of each, and they alternate while weaving together a narrative of spunky Jake’s journalistic misadventures. As a story, it works. Silverstein gives his well-spun yarns, false and true, additional weight pirate booty gets a juicy history of Jean Lafitte; the contextualized within Mexico’s historical national earnest, with endearing self-doubt that’s not quite neurotic and a green journalist’s courage sans bra24 THE TEXAS OBSERVER WWW.TEXASOBSERVER.ORG
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