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Camp Nine

A Novel

Vivienne Schiffer

Publication Year: 2011

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 authorizing the secretary of war to prescribe military zones “from which any or all persons may be excluded.” Eventually this order was applied to one-third of the land area in the United States, mostly in the West, clearing the way for the relocation of 120,000 people with “Foreign Enemy Ancestry,” in other words, those of Japanese descent. This time of fear and prejudice (the U.S. government formally apologized for the relocations in 1982 after determining they were not a military necessity) and the Arkansas Delta are the setting for Camp Nine. The novel’s narrator, Chess Morton, lives in Rook, a place that is rural Arkansas in the extreme, a town too tiny to have a bank, a library, a restaurant, or even a church. Chess’s days are quiet and secluded until the appearance of a relocation center built for what was in effect the imprisonment of thousands of Japanese Americans. Chess’s life becomes intertwined with those of two young internees, Henry and David Matsui, and that of an American soldier mysteriously connected to her mother’s past. As Chess watches the struggles and triumphs of these strangers and sees her mother seek justice for these people who came briefly and involuntarily to call the Arkansas Delta their home, she discovers surprising and disturbing truths about her family’s painful past.

Published by: University of Arkansas Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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pp. v-vi

Although it was inspired by the realities of the Japanese American internment camp experience in Arkansas, Camp Nine is purely fictional. It is true that I was born and largely raised in Rohwer, Arkansas, and the fictional town of Rook that Camp Nine describes...

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APPLICATION FOR LEAVE CLEARANCE

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pp. 2-5

These are the parts of my life: before Camp Nine and after Camp Nine, and those brief, unexpected days when Camp Nine was everything to me. That I was only a child then, and

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Chapter 1

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pp. 7-22

To understand the story, one must understand the place, for the events could not have transpired anywhere else. Just as the beginning of life itself was dependent on the peculiar environment that made possible its first spark...

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Chapter 2

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pp. 23-34

Through the brilliant changes of autumn and the colorless slush of winter, the trains continued to arrive, bearing Japanese families from California. Without warning, jeeps and trucks would appear and block the highway, and a rickety wooden train would groan and slow to a stop at the station. Waves...

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Chapter 3

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pp. 35-44

Although she tried to hide it, it was clear that our chance encounter with Tom Jefferies had deeply affected Mother. She underwent an immediate shift in mood, leaving the oranges in the trunk and sailing into the kitchen, where...

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Chapter 4

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pp. 45-54

Ruby Jean blamed the nearly constant snow on the Germans. She claimed it had never snowed that much in DeSoto County and insisted they’d sprayed the world with some kind of mustard gas that was making the weather...

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Chapter 5

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pp. 55-64

As winter bore down on us until we could hardly stand another day of it, and finally turned toward spring, I became used to a new ritual, one I’d never before witnessed. Gradually, Mother had brought all of her bright dresses, once relegated to the...

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Chapter 6

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pp. 65-76

Mother was a wildly popular teacher among her students at Camp Nine, and their parents and grandparents, beguiled by her charm and her desire to reconnect with her California past, clamored for classes of their own. Mother said the Japanese were naturally...

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Chapter 7

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pp. 77-88

Although it’s since declined like so many Delta towns, in those days, McHenry was a bustling railroad hub. Its long streets, laid out neatly beneath oaks and poplars, ran lengthwise north to south along the major highway between Little Rock and Louisiana. Since it was not...

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Chapter 8

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pp. 89-96

It was only recently that I saw the photographs of the suicide tucked away in Mother’s cardboard box of memories. Leo Togashi was one of Henry’s friends. Strong and sinewy, he had been the anchor of the men’s freestyle swim team at the University of Southern California...

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Chapter 9

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pp. 97-108

Audrey Ryfle started work at Camp Nine the day that Henry left. Through a sea of people waiting along the railroad tracks, from my vantage point atop a ridge, I saw her blue dress grow larger as she approached a guard tower and pulled a folded letter from her pocket....

Chapter 10

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pp. 109-122

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Chapter 11

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pp. 123-132

Henry had been gone for two months, but it had seemed like two years. He came to me at night, in simple dreams where we talked again of the things we loved. The gulf between our ages kept romance out of my head during the day, but in my subconscious, in sleep where I had no control...

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Chapter 12

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pp. 133-140

Grandpa’s cotton sat in the Morton Plantation trucks at the entrance to the cotton gin, waiting their turn to have their heavenly white loads weighed and processed. His trucks had already hauled in the last of Mother’s crops, a...

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Chapter 13

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pp. 141-148

Henry kept his promise and wrote to me often. Sometimes the letters came all at once, bundled in rubber bands, and then weeks might pass without a single note. But each one brought me the sound of his voice...

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Chapter 14

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pp. 149-158

By early spring, Mother had begun to carry the constant vexed expression I recalled from our days before Tom came to us, and I knew that the end of their relationship was nearing. He was at Camp Nine less often, and...

Chapter 15

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pp. 159-170

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Chapter 16

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pp. 171-180

When Tom arrived, I was sleeping fitfully on a bed of blankets and pillows the nurses had made for me on the wood floor. I smelled his aftershave in my sleep before I was aware of where I was and that he was there, speaking...

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Chapter 17

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pp. 181-198

The old-timers said there had never been an autumn like that one. The early frost in October was followed by three straight weeks of seventy-five degrees. Mr. Hayashida predicted that, in the end, it would turn out to be a blessing...


E-ISBN-13: 9781610754866
E-ISBN-10: 1610754867
Print-ISBN-13: 9781557289735
Print-ISBN-10: 1557289735

Page Count: 151
Publication Year: 2011

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • African Americans -- Civil rights -- Mississippi -- History -- 20th century.
  • Civil rights workers -- Mississippi -- Jackson -- Biography.
  • African American civil rights workers -- Mississippi -- Jackson -- Biography.
  • Evers, Medgar Wiley, 1925-1963.
  • Mississippi -- Race relations.
  • Jackson (Miss.) -- Biography.
  • Civil rights movements -- Mississippi -- History -- 20th century.
  • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People -- Biography.
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