Historical Fiction – “Picture Bride”, A Family Saga

Historical Fiction – “Picture Bride”, A Family Saga

Historical Fiction by Michael G. Malaghan

Michael G. Malaghan
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

Editor’s note: We continue Michael G. Malaghan’s serialized historical novel, “Picture Bride — A Family Saga,” based on the Japanese immigrant experience. Malaghan’s trilogy takes readers from turn-of-the-20th-century-Japan to Hawai‘i in the picture bride era; the Islands during World War II, highlighted by the exploits of the Nisei soldiers; and beyond.

The novel, which is now available as a printed softcover book, opens with 12-year-old Haru-chan, fleeing her home in Amakusa, Kyüshü, for Hiroshima, where she becomes the picture bride of a Buddhist priest in Hawai‘i.

Author Michael Malaghan is a retired businessman who divides his time between Hawai‘i, Florida and Japan.


While Haru was giving orders in the fresh air of Waimea, Noboru Tsutsumi was conducting a strike committee meeting in the union’s smoke-clouded upstairs office on Bishop Street, a few doors down from Makino Pharmacy. Ties and shirt collars had been loosened. Half-moon sweat stains marked the underarms of their shirts. All day long, facts, rumors and proposals had been bantered back and forth. Tempers rose and fell like the tide. Sipping his coffee laced with three spoonsful of raw sugar, Tsutsumi eyed his weary organizers.

“Everything that could be said with the facts at hand has been said. It’s time to make decisions that are best for us, not play into the owners’ hands. While they hope we won’t call a strike, they are counting on us being unprepared so they can crush us like the last time.” When I wasn’t here to lead you, he thought to himself.

“You heard me phone Takayama-Sensei. The death of the mother and child did two things.” He paused. “It forced an immediate strike there,” he said, pausing again, longer this time, “and it shows what happens when you strike before you are ready. The situation in Waimea is in chaos,” he said, outlining the problems with shelter, food and sanitation.

Pablo Manlapit wagged his impatient head, but let Tsutsumi finish his menu of obstacles. Then Manlapit pounded the table with his fist and stood up.

“Talk, talk, talk. Do this. Do that. Always planning, planning, but no action. You would all make good lawyers.”

The self-deprecating remark garnered a few grudging chuckles. “The lunas have stepped up the abuse of my people. Their whips and taunts have resulted in wildcat strikes in half of the Filipino plantations. A Japanese child and mother have been murdered. What does it take for you people to stand up?”

There were no chuckles now.

Two burly Japanese union leaders jumped up. The younger deferred to the older. “We have been standing up against them for years, and in the last year we’ve been preparing. We have a strike fund. You are here only to beg because YOU people don’t have the words ‘planning ahead’ in Tagalog.”

At the head of the table Tsutsumi sensed that despite these rash words, the weary men were ready for a compromise between the “strike now” hawks and the “don’t rush” doves. He looked down at the third draft penned in his neat calligraphy. Satisfied, he clinked a spoon against his cup.

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As a new retiree who was free to dream, Michael G. Malaghan attended a Maui Writers Conference presentation on historical novels. It left him with a deep desire to meld his interests in history and writing. After attending the premiere of historian Tom Coffman’s 2007 documentary, “The First Battle,” which detailed how Hawai‘i’s Japanese community avoided mass internment by preparing for that expected consequence three years before Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, Mike decided to tell the entire Japanese immigrant experience in historical novel form. His trilogy will take readers from turn-of-the-20th-century-Japan to Hawai‘i in the picture bride era; the Islands during the World War II, highlighted by the exploits of the Nisei soldiers; and beyond. Mike was born in the Midwest and raised in Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida and volunteered for the Peace Corps after college. In his business life he was president of a Walt Disney licensee, marketing English language learning materials in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Korea. Mike and his wife Tomoko, a native of Tochigi Prefecture, are worldwide travelers and adventurers. They split their time between homes in Waikiki and Winter Park, Fla., and also spend nearly a month every year visiting with Tomoko’s parents in Japan, where Mike also conducts workshops for his former company.


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