How wonderful for the author to begin her book with a reflection in utero! She describes her flip as “one of my rare moments of grace,” but does herself an injustice here. The reader finds many moments of grace as Diana navigates through the extremely complex inter-relationships existing between herself, her siblings, and her parents. As the youngest of nine this navigation would be challenging enough, but is made even more so by the cultural divide that cuts through her family like a geologic fault line.
In a memoir one does not necessarily expect poetry, but some of Cole’s childhood recollections are written with such poignancy they could easily be described as such. I was especially moved by her loving description of sharing a hot bath with her mother. “Her stomach stood out like a mountain,” Cole writes, “a living monument to the nine of us that had started life deep within its mystery. I would try to push it down with my small hand, but it shot back up refusing to obey...”
Cole has done a great service in educating people like me—woefully ignorant for the most part—of the injustice and hardships suffered by Japanese internees and their families during and after the Second World War. Courageously, with exquisite detail, and often with humour, Cole tells us what it was like to grow up in Chicago at this pivotal time in history, in this particular family.
Cole includes a postscript at the end of her book in which she relates her experience as an American internee to the experience of internees in Canada. Referring back to fellow internee, Canadian poet, Roy Miki, she says, “We grew up in shadows of yearning, dark corridors trod by kin who were compelled by longing to suffuse hollow places with meaning and psalm.” Here is one more case of poetry—quite wonderfully—asserting itself into the work!
Sideways: Memoir of a Misfit both educates and inspires. What more could one ask for?