Reviewed by Becca
TITLE: Gardens of Hope
AUTHOR: Michael Holloway Perronne
PUBLISHER: Chances Press LLC
LENGTH: 192 pages
RELEASE DATE: December 22, 2016
Can two men from the same city but segregated worlds maintain a connection during a time in US history that not only brands one of them as the enemy but denies that a love such as theirs exists?
On the surface, Jack appears to have all a man in World War II era 1941 could want with his solid middle-class background, upcoming college graduation, and the perfect, devoted fiancee. But one night when he accidentally stumbles upon a shadow life of men who desire other men in a Downtown Los Angeles park, he begins to realize exactly what has always left him with a feeling of emptiness.
Despite the constant danger of being arrested by vice cops, Jack continues to visit the park every chance he has to feel a connection, no matter how fleeting, with another man. One night he meets a handsome and charismatic Japanese-American, Hiro, who appears to want more than a quick encounter, and Jack surprises himself by starting to truly fall in love for the first time.
However, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt issues Executive Order 9066 and orders the mandatory relocation of over 100,000 Japanese-Americans, who have never been charged with a crime, to far flung internment camps sites. Jack and Hiro suddenly find themselves torn apart before their secret, fledgling romance can blossom.
Desperate to find and reconnect with Hiro, Jack accepts a high school teaching position at an internment camp in the California desert, Manzanar. There, surrounded by armed guard towers and a prison-like environment, Jack begins to fully realize the injustices being faced by Japanese-Americans during one of the most controversial times of United States history and shifts his world view- forever.
Something told me I needed to pick this book up and I did. I read a few others but my eyes kept coming back to this book and I’m glad I opened it. This story is so beautifully written and so powerful that I am still emotional over it. I’m trying to think of how to begin to explain such a story to you other than to say ‘go pick it up and read it now.’
Jack is what everyone would consider a typical male living in the 1940s. He’s going to college to get a degree, has the girlfriend everyone thinks he will marry and have a good life with, and things seem to be just….perfect. The only problem is, it’s far from perfect. Jack is miserable. He still feels guilt over an accident that happened years ago that has left him with a limp, he doesn’t really love his girlfriend the way she loves him, and he feels that he doesn’t measure up the way a man should have by standards in those days. Feeling restless one night, he enters a park and finds out what part of himself is missing and why he feels so out of place. Night after night, he returns and meets a man who opened up a part of his soul. Hiro.
This is a story of discovery, love, loss and so much more. Jack is discovering who he really is. When he meets Hiro, he feels like he can finally breathe. He has met someone who has made him feel as he has never felt before. And for Jack, that’s huge. He has been through a lot in his short life. And he is such a good man. It breaks my heart that he feels like he doesn’t measure up. He has such a sweet spirit. He would do anything for anybody. All he wants is someone to love and to love him. Hiro is such a sweet spirit as well. I love both of these boys. Hiro wants the same things Jack does out of life. They finally find each other in a time when being gay was severely taboo. But the connection they have with each other can’t keep them apart. Until war does it for them.
I remember reading some of what happened as far as being prejudicial against Japanese Americans during World War II. World War II has always being a piece of history I have loved to study but nothing prepared me for the devastation of the things that happened at Manzanar. For a country to proclaim you can have freedom here and then to take it away was a very rough time, to put it mildly. Pearl Harbor had everything in an uproar and all of a sudden the finger had to be pointed at someone. It didn’t matter that they were born here. The heritage was that of Japan and that was all anyone heard. It was horrible. And Jack got to see first hand what life for these people was really like. He saw the deplorable conditions, the despair on the faces he passed. The guards always watching them like they were not even human. Needless to say his views of the world changed drastically.
That’s what hit me so hard with this book. The injustices that were done. But what impacted me even more was the beacon of hope the author gave in this book by way of a garden. A garden of hope. Hiro and Jack went through hell and back with the love they were trying to share because of a war that was determined to keep them apart in any way. But they held out with hope and love with each other. They held on to the fact that one day there would be peace and they could live their lives together. They believed that somehow life would turn out better than what they were living. They held on to hope. And although life doesn’t always turn out the way we want it, we have to make the best of what we have. Hold on to hope and hold on to the memories.