Synopses & Reviews
Why She Left Us tells the story of three generations of a Japanese-American family whose lives are tragically affected by the Second World War when they are interned in camps in the American West. It is also a searing yet redemptive novel about a family and its secrets--secrets that grow from fierce love and terrible fear whose sources are both personal and cultural. The story unfolds like a mystery, narrated by the four principal characters: the innocents, Mari and her brother, Eric; the complex uncle-patriarch, Jack; and the ghost voice of the grandmother Kaori. Why She Left Us illuminates the universal relationships between mothers and their children while evoking the power of history to affect indivdual lives.
About the Author
Growing up half-Japanese in Hawaii, Rahna Reiko Rizzuto knew virtually nothing about the internment camp where her maternal relatives had been confined during World War II. Her Japanese-American mother was only five when the war ended and had few memories of the camp, and the rest of the family never talked about that dark time. It wasn??t until 1992, when Rahna accompanied her mother and grandmother to the 50th anniversary reunion of the opening of the Amache camp in Colorado, that the full significance of the internment was brought home to her. She began interviewing people about their experience in the camps, and those interviews, she says, had a huge impact on both the structure and plot of her first novel.
Rahna was the first female to graduate from Columbia College with a degree in astrophysics, an unusual background for a novelist. ??I grew up on the Big Island of Hawaii, and there is an observatory on Mauna Kea,?? she explains. ??I worked there one summer, sitting in the telescope and taking pictures of globular structures, so I became interested in astrophysics. But I didn??t want to get my Ph.D., and there were about two women astrophysicists back then, so I didn??t pursue it as a career. I just started writing in college, and I??ve been writing ever since.?? Like most writers, Rahna has supported herself with a number of ??day jobs,?? including, for a time, one in the publicity department at Knopf. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children, whose mixed heritage includes both Japanese and Chinese ancestry. Her first novel, Why She Left Us was awarded the American Book Award for fiction by the Before Columbus Foundation.