Sunday, October 12, 2014

Catch-up #2: Imprisoned by Sandler, Boxers and Saints by Yang, The Haunting of Hill House by Jackson

Another day, another attack on the sidebar. We can party when I'm finished.

The subtitle of Imprisoned by Martin W. Sandler says it all: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During WWII. I don't know what made me mentally reduce this horror to the thought that perhaps it was merely immigrants, not naturalized citizens that were forced into prison camps in the U.S. during WWII, but boy was I wrong. They were not only citizens but some some were 2nd or 3rd generation and they were people who owned businesses, contributed immensely to the American economy as well as farming practices in the U.S. and were incredibly proud of being American citizens. As a result of hysteria, they were forced to sell their land and possessions for next to nothing, rounded up, and imprisoned in deliberately remote and hellish places. Now, I understand.

Imprisoned is an oversized book published for children by Walker Books for Young Readers (a Bloomsbury imprint) so it has lots of nice photographs and slightly large print but the author doesn't talk down to his audience. He clearly describes the politics involved in the unconstitutional decision to put American citizens in camps, the racial prejudice Japanese Americans had been dealing with since their arrival, the living conditions and the horror of losing everything they'd worked for, the amazing strength of character and creativity shown by those imprisoned and the various attempts at reparation and results. So, there's plenty of material that adults may enjoy every bit as much as the targeted younger audience. I bought my copy and I'm glad I did. I'll be referring back to it and looking up some of the other books mentioned.

Yet another purchase, I bought both Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang, companion graphic novels that tell the story of the Boxer Rebellion from two differing viewpoints.

Boxers tells the story from the viewpoint of a young boy called Little Bao who sees the Christians in China as foreign devils and a threat, while Saints tells the side of a young Chinese girl (called Four Girl by her family) who becomes a Christian and is able to acquire a real name of her own, Vibiana. Their stories intersect when they cross paths as children and again when one kills the other as the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fist (to which Little Bao belongs) violently overtakes the Christians.

I read Boxers and Saints because I loved The Eternal Smile and American Born Chinese by Yang. I can't say I loved Boxers and Saints as much, but I did like them and reading graphic novels is a tremendously palatable way to learn a bit about history. I'd heard about the Boxer Rebellion but if you'd asked me what it was before I read Boxers and Saints, I probably would have said, "The year everyone decided to leave out the Christmas decorations, maybe?" or something equally inane.

There are elements of magical realism to the stories but I don't feel like saying much more. Andi's review of Boxers and Saints is much better than anything I can think of to say. You should read it.

Speaking of Andi, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson is a book I read casually as part of a read-along (IOW, I didn't officially sign up to participate), although I never saw any mention of a hashtag and it took me forever to figure out the read-along was hosted by The Estella Society, not Estella's Revenge. Close but no cigar.

I've read Shirley Jackson's short story collection, The Lottery, and We Have Always Lived in the Castle (pre-blog), but this was my first reading of The Haunting of Hill House.

Known as a horror classic, The Haunting of Hill House tells the story of a man named Dr. Montague who has spent years seeking out a haunted house to observe as an experiment. Four characters end up staying in Hill House. Dr. Montague is in charge, of course. Eleanor is a lonely single woman who is looking for adventure and a fresh start after spending much of her adulthood caring for her mother. Theodora is a spirited, happy-go-lucky woman; to her the stay at Hill House is a bit of a lark. Luke, son of the owners and future inheritor of Hill House, is described as a liar but never really gave me the sense that he was an unreliable character, although I wouldn't think of him as trustworthy, either.

The house gives off evil vibes and Eleanor, in particular, seems to be targeted by its antics, inside and out. Even outdoors, bizarre things happen. Eleanor is the most sensitive to psychic phenomenon, having been the victim of a possible gremlin (I think -- not sure I'm remembering right) when she was young. Dr. Montague has informed them that once the house decides to claim someone, they will die trying to get away. Will the 4 visitors survive the escalating terror alive?

I'm not going to give anything away but there were definitely moments The Haunting of Hill House scared the bejeezus out of me. I particularly loved reading the book for the historical perspective, though. Since it was published in 1959, there were oddities of speech and perspective from that time period. I particularly found it interesting that Eleanor thought she was being just a little bit wild when she set out a pair of slacks to wear and mentioned how horrified her mother would be (dresses and skirts only, ladies!) I've been around long enough to have lived with an elementary school dress code in which girls were forbidden to wear pants with one exception: matching pantsuits were allowed. Hard to fathom, today, isn't it? Definitely recommended. I really enjoyed The Haunting of Hill House and will return to it when I want to be creeped out, in the future.

I recommend all four of these books, but among them Imprisoned and The Haunting of Hill House were my 5-star reads; Boxers and Saints got 4 stars.

©2014 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.


  1. I recall reading Shirley Jackson's The Lottery, which is definitely haunting. I need to read more of her works Hill House sounds like it will scare me senseless which tempts me to read it. She's quite a master of creepy. ... How Halloween-y. thanks

    1. I actually didn't love The Lottery but maybe that's because I'd heard it talked up so much that by the time I got to it my expectations were blown out of proportion. She is definitely exceptional at ramping up tension, absolutely. The Haunting of Hill House is perfect for fall/Halloween reading.

  2. I really enjoyed Yang's other graphic novels, but I haven't picked up Boxers and Saints yet. And I really must read The Haunting of Hill House; it sounds awesome.

    1. I love Yang. He has a real knack for inserting humor into his stories. I'm glad I read Boxers and Saints, even if they weren't my absolute favorites of the graphic novels he's written/illustrated.

      Yep, you need to read The Haunting of Hill House. Go for it. I bought my copy for the read-along. So glad I did. I'll return to it. It's excellently creepy, perfect for the RIP.

  3. I love, love, love, love The Haunting of Hill House. And for the record, The Lottery and the rest of that collection is my favorite short story collection ever.


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