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.
“We have the owners on the run and your meddling priest goes to a haole church,” said Tsutsumi, throwing back a jigger of whiskey. The no alcohol rule had gone by the wayside as the strike dragged on. The Honolulu union headquarters had been cleaned up for the visiting union leaders, but tobacco smoke still hugged the ceiling like San Francisco fog.
“Meddling priest?” challenged Oki Tama. “The owners did not offer the new bonus program until the Honolulu churches echoed Adams’ sermon. In a few face-saving months from now, we will have our wages adjusted close to what you called for in your editorials.” He paused and then snorted, “On the run? Sugar production rises weekly.”
“There are things you don’t understand,” said Tsutsumi with another irritating wave of his wrist, signaling he had heard enough.
Oki Tama stood up. “Then maybe you shouldn’t have brought me to Honolulu.” The anger in his voice silenced side conversations. The clinking of glasses stopped. “You shouldn’t have paraded me at all your meetings. I am more than a scarred face whose child and wife were murdered.” He jabbed his finger into his chest. “I have earned my right to speak here.”
Shinseki, a bull-necked Maui union leader, broke the standoff. “Let’s not do the work of the sugar association.” His gravelly voice created the desired calming effect. “We have enough problems. The good rains favor the owners; they don’t need laborers hoeing the irrigation ditches. The Spanish flu ravaged our squatter camps. California passed a referendum forbidding Japanese citizens from owning land. Sugar prices are at an all-time high. The owners publish a daily list of our workers returning to the fields. Korean scabs, angry with us for annexing their country, are cutting cane to spite us. At least the church leaders are trying to keep our community from being torn apart.”
Still standing, Oki Tama splayed his palms in a gesture of peace. “What I suggest is we give a reasoned response. Short, much short of disbanding our union, but something.”
Tsutsumi’s shoulders relaxed. He glanced at the hard men in the room. “Of course, we must respond. I suggest we open up our membership to all workers, not just Japanese.”
Murmurs of approval rippled through the group.
“Furthermore, I suggest we demand mediation.”
The union leader from ‘Ewa Beach gave a little snort. “The owners will never agree.”
“I second the chairman’s motion,” said Oki Tama, understanding the face-saving gesture. He sat down slowly, picked up his whiskey glass and lifted it in salute to Tsutsumi.
A relieved chorus of “Hai!” greeted Tama’s second.
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