Michael G. Malaghan
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald
Mö‘ili‘ili, May 26, 1924
“Quiet!” hissed one of the boys. “They’re starting to vote.”
A hush settled over the Takayama living room. Twenty-three of Taka’s fellow Nisei students from McKinley High School had gathered around the breakfast table, where a new Crosley radio was broadcasting the proceedings. They all strained to hear the voice emanating from the four-tube radio receiver that was about the size of a loaf of bread. Its companion battery cabinet was stacked underneath.
On this auspicious Monday morning, Haru and Sachi had risen at 5 o’clock to steam rice, scramble four dozen eggs with diced ham and chopped onions in a Chinese wok and slice six loaves of bread to toast in the oven. Sachi’s right hand ached from squeezing fresh oranges for juice. The large coffee urn, normally used only for mission socials, was percolating on its third refill.
KGU radio was broadcasting the coming immigration vote in the United States Senate on a short-wave relay from KHJ Los Angeles. Taka’s class was as American as any in Kansas that might also be listening to this “democracy in action” radio coverage, but with a big difference. In an hour, they would know whether or not men and women of their race would be forbidden from immigrating to America.
The announcer intoned, “The vote will commence in five minutes due to a procedural question.”
Everyone gathered around the radio began talking at once as shoulders eased and spines relaxed. “Americans complain that the Jews and Italians are diluting white America. Now Californians see the racial purity campaign as an opportunity to include us,” said one boy.
“Exclude us,” corrected Amy, who always made a point of not acting Japanese.
Koichi ignored her. “What these nativists really want is an America the way it was in 1776 — white and Protestant.”
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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.