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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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61 of 63 people found the following review helpful:

Very very biased, January 20, 2007
Reviewer:L. Canseco - See all my reviews
As a Filipina descent, Korea is not the only victim of Japanese invasion. Philippines, China, Korea, and other Asian countries had to endure Japanese colonization (constant stealing, torture, murder and rape). They had to lose their country, language, young women as comfort women, young men as miners and soldiers, produces, treasures, and more. Those who worked on independence were tortured and killed for decades. This book could severely distort young minds without contexts. Would you let your kids a book written by a daughter of Hussein about her survival from American troops without telling about terrorism? If the answer is no, don't let your kids read this book. Hussein ruled 24 years in his own country while Japanese ruled 35 years in Korea. Hussein was executed while Japanese empire still prospers. The author was the daughter of a Japanese officer who tortured Chinese and Korean during World War Two in China. The entire family was wanted as war criminals. She pretends as she was an innocent victim. This "supposed" story happened during their escape after the Japanese' defeat. Those who are not familiar with Asian history. Japanese officers during World War 2 did the same thing to Asian as Nazi's officers to Jews. Do you think this is appropriate for young innocent minds like your kids?

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48 of 50 people found the following review helpful:

Even one star is more than enough., January 20, 2007
Reviewer:S. Kwak "AA" (USA) - See all my reviews
Even one star is more than enough. Children should learn that Japan was the invader of Korea, how aggressive they are.

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53 of 55 people found the following review helpful:

Ah., January 20, 2007
Reviewer:Jin Woo Kim "Samuel Park" (California, US) - See all my reviews
While Japanese population residing in Korean peninsula was generally safely escorted out of the land after the empire's defeat, I grant that there must have been instances of violent repraisal against Japanese, given the fourty years of inhumane repression that Koreans had to endure. Whatever moral judgements Japanese may want to pass on to this repraisal, let him do so on the condition that he recognizes first the crimes done to Korenas over decades under Japanese rules. Let me not even elaborate on how I am disgusted to extreme at some Japaneses masquerading themselves as 'victims' of nuclear warfare (I presume that they would have preferred allies' all-out landing operation in the case of which Japanese government was to urged them to fight to death with sharpened bamboo sticks?).

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56 of 58 people found the following review helpful:

So far from the truth, January 20, 2007
Reviewer:I. Kim (Stanton, CA United States) - See all my reviews
I can not even begin on the distorted viewpoint of the author.
The whole book is so far from the truth that I am quite astonished to even see that so many people believe it. Please people, remember that that Japan was the invader of Korea, a small peaceful country. Korea did nothing to start the war or the invasion. Japan was found guilty of so many war crimes, such as medical testing on humans. Please please please do not believe any twisted information from this book - the book is not historically based at all!!!!! Please instead read the "Lost Names" by Richard Kim if you want to have a balanced view about wartime in Korea.

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68 of 70 people found the following review helpful:

Judge yourself, January 20, 2007
Reviewer:bostonrpgmania "bostonrpgmania" (Edmonton, Canada) - See all my reviews
professor Eckert of Harvard university wrote a very impartial and just review of the book. Shame on the writer of the book...

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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56 of 59 people found the following review helpful:

I can not let my children to read distorted history!, January 20, 2007
Reviewer:Samuel Kim "sky" (USA) - See all my reviews
what author wants to tell by this book is to rationalize Japaneses' brutal acts in Korea. In this book, she fictionalizes that Japaneses suffered from Koreans by disgusting violence. However, the truth is that the victims from those crime and WW2 was Koreans. Moreover, Japaneses were the subject of offense. They invaded Korea and China for their greedy imperialism. They made many young Koreans and Chinese put to deep suffering by chemical and medical research,sexual slave system,compulsory labor, and so many violence. They are still trying to idealize and ratioanlize their war in Asia by THIS KIDS OF BOOK. The author implies that Japanses still miss their glory of imperialism by distorting history.

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61 of 64 people found the following review helpful:

What a shame on the writer, January 19, 2007
Reviewer:H. Yoon "Once again Hirosima" - See all my reviews
The writer must be insane!!! She must have read too many junk Japanese comics. And so does whoever chose the book for the children. Did all of you American already forget the cruelties Japanese people and their government did during the WWII to you and so many Asian countries? Never underestimate them. They will stab on your back again whenever they need to. And Japanese people should shame on yourself!!

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54 of 57 people found the following review helpful:

Nothing but lie, January 19, 2007
Reviewer:James Campbell "Campbell" (San Jose, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This story is very messed up and it is nothing but a stupid lie.

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58 of 61 people found the following review helpful:

How stupid!, January 19, 2007
Reviewer:E. Kim "oh my God!" (san mateo, CA) - See all my reviews
Do you know what is the real story? I don't understand why american use this book in school? Don't you know about pearl harbor?How many people death at that war? Yoko Kawashawa Watkins!!! She is horrible person in the world. She is hiding who is the victim what is the real. This book is not real at all. Japenese people didn't even say sorry to chinese,korean,filipino... They were killed a lot of people. We can't even count how many people they killed.

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60 of 63 people found the following review helpful:

Awfully wrong, January 19, 2007
Reviewer:yoshida - See all my reviews
Waste of time and money.Especially not for children.Even one star is more than enough.

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