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So Far from the Bamboo Grove
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So Far from the Bamboo Grove (Paperback)
by Yoko Kawashawa Watkins
(148 customer reviews)    
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Number of Reviews: 148
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54 of 57 people found the following review helpful:

it's terrible., January 19, 2007
Reviewer:Reader "reader" (USA) - See all my reviews
I don't understand what is the writer thinking.
and I also have no idea why this book is published.

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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful:

who were the invader????, January 19, 2007
Reviewer:J. Lee "true teller" (Dallas,TX) - See all my reviews
I want to refer this phrase from comment of a professor, Carter Eckert, in harvard university: "to teach "So Far from the Bamboo Grove" without providing historicization might be compared to teaching a sympathetic novel about the escape of a German official's family from the Netherlands in 1945 without alluding to the nature of the Nazi occupation or the specter of Anne Frank.

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61 of 64 people found the following review helpful:

shame on author , January 19, 2007
Reviewer:elecgirl (chapel hill, nc) - See all my reviews

If you figure out how this author distorts history,
shoot 1 star instead of "STUPID" 5 stars.

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68 of 71 people found the following review helpful:

Shameless Memoir, January 19, 2007
Reviewer:Blue Tone Jazz (NJ, United States) - See all my reviews
The tragedy in Korea caused by Japanese during the world war II was not even comparable to what this author wants to suggest. Her regretfull apology against those war crimes should come first before any complaining words she dare to utter....

Shameless Memoir. Japanese people didn't know what was right then, but this book proves nothing has changed. Shame on the author!!!!!

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51 of 52 people found the following review helpful:

A matter of context (Boston Globe), January 19, 2007
A Kid's Review
A matter of context

By Carter Eckert | December 16, 2006

THE CONTROVERSY in the Dover-Sherborn Regional School Committee concerning the inclusion of Yoko Kawashima Watkins's book "So Far from the Bamboo Grove" in the sixth-grade curriculum underscores the importance of history in the teaching of literature, especially when the texts deal with a specific historical time and place.

Watkins's book, based on the author's life, focuses on the harrowing experiences of an 11-year-old Japanese girl and her family at the end of World War II in the northern part of Japanese-occupied colonial Korea. It is a well-written, gripping tale of terror and survival, and its first-person narration from the viewpoint of the girl, Yoko, makes it all the more powerful for sixth-grade readers.

Teaching should encourage students to think "outside the box" of American ethnocentricity and highlight human commonalities across cultural and historical divides. Watkins's book goes a long way toward accomplishing these goals. Through the magic of her prose and identification with her heroine, students are transported to a distant and different time and place and can experience Yoko's ordeal and triumph as their own.

But context and balance are important. While Yoko's story is compelling as a narrative of survival, it achieves its powerful effect in part by eliding the historical context in which Yoko and her family had been living Korea. That context, simply put, was a 40-year record of harsh colonial rule in Korea, which reached its apogee during the war years of 1937-45, when Yoko was growing up. While some Koreans fared better than others, many were conscripted for forced labor and sexual slavery to serve the Japanese imperial war machine, while the colonial authorities simultaneously promoted a program of intensive, coercive cultural assimilation that sought to erase a separate Korean identity on the peninsula.

Watkins was a small girl as these events were unfolding and can hardly be blamed for them, let alone held responsible for the occupation itself. But the story she tells is unfortunately incomplete, if not distorted, by the absence of this larger context. For example, she notes in passing that "the Koreans were part of the Japanese empire but they hated the Japanese and were not happy about the war." Since no further context is provided, young readers knowing little of the larger history of Japanese colonialism or the wartime atrocities might be tempted to think of the Korean population as ungrateful or uncooperative toward the Japanese empire of which they were a part.

The author's depictions of Koreans in the "Anti-Japanese Communist Army" are similarly problematic. First, there is some question as to whom she is referring here. There was no organized "Anti-Japanese Communist Army" of Korean soldiers, except for Kim Il Sung (later the leader of North Korea) and his guerrilla partisans in Manchuria, but they did not arrive in Korea until early September 1945, long after the events described in the book. It is possible, of course, that she is referring to some scattered local Korean communist groups, who sought a violent redress of colonial grievances in the Nanam area where the story takes place. Such violence cannot be condoned. But simply to portray Korean communists in 1945 as endemically evil is not only empirically incorrect; it removes Korean communism from the larger historical context that explains its anti-Japanese stance and its appeal to many Koreans. Indeed, throughout Korea in 1945 communists were widely regarded as patriotic nationalists who had risked their lives against a brutal colonial regime.

Dover-Sherborn teachers should be applauded for trying to expand the minds of their students beyond the familiar, and to include works about Asia in their curriculum. But Watkins's book may not serve that purpose well, especially if it is taught simply as a heroic personal narrative of survival, without adequate provision of historical context. This is not an argument for censorship or banning books. There is no reason why Watkins's book cannot be used in the schools. Introduced carefully and wisely, in conjunction, for example, with Richard Kim's classic "Lost Names," an autobiographical novel about a young Korean boy living at the end of Japanese colonial rule in the 1940s, it can help students understand how perspectives vary according to personal and historical circumstances. But to teach "So Far from the Bamboo Grove" without providing historicization might be compared to teaching a sympathetic novel about the escape of a German official's family from the Netherlands in 1945 without alluding to the nature of the Nazi occupation or the specter of Anne Frank.

Carter Eckert is a professor of Korean history at Harvard University.

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69 of 76 people found the following review helpful:

More Japanese white-washing of WW2 atrocities., January 19, 2007
Reviewer:Shennong - See all my reviews
Yeah I know a lot of terrible stuff happened to innocent Japanese people in WW2 also. But when I think of WW2, I can only think of the horrible things that the Japanese government did to my people - Chinese people. My own grandparents saw people around them starve to death because of Japanese occupation. They were lucky to have survived. I honestly feel no pity or sadness at all when I read these stories. Same with "Grave of the Fireflies".

This especially goes with this story. If they were stationed in Japan-occupied Korea, then her father was directly involved in the colonising efforts in Korea. I would much rather read about the horrors that the author's father visited on his Korean subjects. Hell, he was probably a war criminal.

And let's get the story straight here. While Korean communists of today are dictators that need to be dethroned, however at the end of WW2, Korean communists were welcomed with open arms by the Korean people. Even during the negotiations that ultimately divided Korea, they were more popular with the people, because on the opposite spectrum in the South were US-installed "Japanese sympathisers", that is, Korean officials that helped and aided Japanese imperialists.

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60 of 65 people found the following review helpful:

Japanese invaded US to save Americans!!!, January 19, 2007
Reviewer:Paul (Woodstock, MD United States) - See all my reviews
If you think that Japanese invaded United States to save poor Americans as the Emperor of Japan insisted, recommend this book to your children and tell them that it would be so nice to be colonized by Japanese.

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73 of 81 people found the following review helpful:

Credible or not you judge by yourself., January 18, 2007
Reviewer:Beppo (NYC) - See all my reviews
Some people questioned the credibility of a certain Korean News paper article. Please viewers , especially teachers who want to recommend the book to your student. read and judge by yourself.

There is a claim that the father of a writer YoKo Kawashawa Watkins might have been a war criminal who served in 731 medical battalion, which was a infamous human experimental unit, as a high ranking officer.
* 731 medical unit not only used Chinese and Korean but also Russian, American and other Allied POWs, as human guinea pigs.
Accoring to Watkins' book , her father was "high ranking government official". She never mentioned what exactly her fater did , however there is a sentence that when Imperial Japan lost the war, he and his family became a target of Russians and anti-Japanese Korean partisans (it was simply not true. anti-Japanese Korean partisans all but annihilated by repreated Japanese anti-partisan operations, those who survived either belonged to Soviet or Chinese red army) ."They will be looking especially for you and your family. They will kill you. Because of your husband's work for Japanese interest in Manchuria." Watkins never mentioned what happened next , however she wrote after serving 6 years in Siberia , her father finally sent back to Japan. According to her second book, her father was listed neither the list of Japanese Pow who sent back to Japan in 1948 nor the one of Japanese War Criminals made public by Russians.

According to several experts (historians), it was only members of 731 battalion who served 6 years

Kim Chang Kwon , the chair man of committee for truth of 731 battalion, explains " From December 25 to 31st , 1949,there was trials of 12 members of 731 battalion in Khavalovsk war criminal court,sentence varied from 5 years to 25 years.yet all of them sent back Japan in 1956"

Moreover, lots of Japanese characters in the book strangely coincide with those who served in 731 battalion.

For example, there is a record of the trial that Taketa kazuzo ,who is a college buddy of Watkins' father in the book, served in 731 battalion. there are also Matsumura, Yamada and Kawashima's trial records. They are described as Military doctors and NCOs in the book

Taketa graduated from Kyoto medical School, If watkin's father was a really college buddy of Taketa, he was a surely graduate of the Kyoto medical school.Interestingly , including Ishii Shiro , the founder of 731 battalion, and sizable number of 73 battalion members were graduates of the Kyoto medical school.

It is also very similar to the description in the book that on August 11th 1945, family members of 731 battalion evacuated from Harbin,Manchuria by train.

There are also other questions about her inconsistence on her birth place. She once said she was born in Manchuria (Harbin precisely , the very location of 731st battalion). she even wrote in the book "Japan, which I had never seen" and on the back cover of the book she wrote "all her life" she lived outside of Japan. However, in her second book she wrote she was born in Aomori , Japan. She also claimed her father was a "diplomat" but there is no name "Yoshio Kawashima" on the list of ex- or contemporary Japanese diplomats. In her second book, she also claimed that her father was an Oxford Graduate , but again there is no Oxford graduate with same name.

According to Korean American translator, Watkins once told her , her father did very secret work for Japanese goverment.

Yonhap news asked several interview to Watkins , but she refused them all.

some claimed that her father may be the top official related to 731 battalion. A school in America stopped using a book as a text when Watkins could not give a proof that she was not the daughter of above mentioned top ranking official.

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71 of 87 people found the following review helpful:

Please read this book and also read the author's intention in this fiction, January 18, 2007
Reviewer:Daeok Youn "Danny Youn" (Champaign, IL USA) - See all my reviews
I want to add my opinion since she wrote a good book. However, I get to know what she wanted to get from this fiction novel.

I believe most part of her story could be based on what she heard and saw. But it seems that she just remanufactured her story for her purpose like the Japanese Government is intentionally doing.

I found from a Korean newspaper that the author's father was a doctor who used innocent Korean and Chinese people as test animals. Also Think of millions of Koreans who died during the astrocious Japanese colony and the world war II. Do not ignore this fact!
The most important problem is her story is not based on the true history. If you have a real historical background, you can find how she tried to fake the stories. She is making lots of wittingly mistakes while making the stories.

My grandfather survived from Japanese brutal and forceful exploitation of Koreans as war slaves/laborers during WW2. According to my granfather, most of young Korean people worked in Japanese war weapon factory were killed by Japanese soldier right after Japan lose the war.

Who dare to say that Koreans raped Japanese innocent women while the true history is vice verse? I am so worried my sons will read this fiction and falsely misunderstand the true history by this one story.

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2 of 64 people found the following review helpful:

Korea must face the true history, January 17, 2007
Reviewer:bumblebeee - See all my reviews
February 1946, a new clinic opened near Hakata Port.
It was actually an abortion clinic.

The reason was so many women evacuated from Korean peninsula were pregnant as the result of raping.
According to the report by Dr Hashizume in 10 Jun 1946, most cases were raped by Koreans, second was Russians.

Abortion was illegal at the time but the doctors wanted to prevent the women to commit suicide.
There was no anesthesia because of lack of supplies but the operations were continued until late 1947.
"So Far from the Bamboo Grove" is not fiction, it's true story.


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