By now married with two teenage sons, Zeni and his family were forced to move to an internment camp just because they were of Japanese descent. Located on the Gila River Indian Reservation, it was hot and dry desert with too many people crowded into barrack after barrack, each containing row upon row of cots.
While families tried to make a home out of their allotted space, putting up curtains and decorating with all kinds of personal mementos, Zeni still dreamed about baseball and decided he was going to play - right in the desert!
And so he picked a spot and began to clear the grass and rocks, hard work in the desert heat. Yet before he knew it, others joined in to help, including his own sons. Using his ingenuity, his power of persuasion and any other means possible, little by little, Zeni and his helpers began to turn the desert into a baseball field, right down to bleaches for people to sit and watch games. And while the men worked on building a field, the women sewed uniforms out of potato sacks. Lastly, equipment was purchased with funds collected from among the detainees.
Barbed Wire Baseball is an excellent introduction to both Japanese American baseball and the internment of Japanese American in World War II. Marissa Moss gives the same attention to detail in her text that Zeni gave to creating his baseball field. And the beautiful illustrations by Yuko Shimizu bring the whole story together. This is the first children's book that Shimizu has illustrated and for it, she used a Japanese calligraphy brush and ink, than scanned and colored the illustrations with Photoshop, so that the colors give a real sense of the time.
At the end of Barbed Wire Baseball, there is an Afterword about Kenichi Zenimura life, as well as an Author's Note and an Artist's Note, which you may not want to miss reading. Moss has also included an useful Bibliography for further exploration of Japanese American baseball.
I had never heard of Kenochi Zenimura before, probably because I'm not much of a baseball person, but I really was impressed with his perseverance and dedication to creating a place where he and his fellow detainees could enjoy playing or watching baseball in an otherwise desolate place and that would give them all a sense of accomplishment and community. And having lived in Phoenix, AZ for 4 years and being somewhat familiar with the desert around it, I really understood what an accomplishment it was.
|1927: Zenimura standing between Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth
(also depicted on Page 10 of Barbed Wire Baseball)
This book is a Picture Book for Older Readers and is recommeded for readers age 7+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL
Nonfiction Monday is hosted this week by Perogies & Gyoza