Snow Falling on Cedars Author:David Guterson The place is the fictional island of San Piedro off the coast of Washington, a community of "five thousand damp souls" [p. 5] who support themselves through salmon fishing and berry farming. The time is 1954, eight years after the end of World War II, in which some of San Piedro's young men lost their lives and many others were irreparably injur... more »ed, physically as well as emotionally.
Now one of those survivors--a gill-netter named Carl Heine--has drowned under mysterious circumstances and another fisherman is on trial for his murder. The fact that the accused, Kabuo Miyamoto, is a first-generation Japanese American is not mere coincidence. To the local coroner, Heine's injuries suggested that the sheriff look for "a Jap with a bloody gun butt" [p. 59]. And among San Piedro's Anglos, hostility against Japanese still runs high, even if, like Kabuo, those Japanese were born and raised on the island and fought for the United States during the war. Kabuo's trial, in a sense, is a continuation of the white community's quarrel with its Asian neighbors.
But the Japanese--and particularly Kabuo and his wife, Hatsue--have their own grounds for resentment, stemming from years of bigotry that culminated during World War II, when thousands of Japanese Americans were interned in government relocation camps and Kabuo was effectively robbed of land that his father had worked and paid for. Even as the state presents its case against Kabuo Miyamoto, the reader is compelled to recognize the Miyamotos' case against their white neighbors, the best of whom stood by as an entire community was driven into exile. Their case never receives a public hearing: it can only be prosecuted in the courtrooms of memory and conscience.« less