Historical Fiction: Tallgrass, by Sandra Dallas

4.0 out of 5 stars Our own personal war

The internment camps into which Japanese Americans were forced after Pearl Harbor have, at last, been garnering much interest lately. Sandra Dallas has made once such camp the center of Tallgrass. Rennie Stroud has just become a teenager when the Japanese arrive in her Colorado hometown, and her life will very quickly change in many crucial but unforeseen ways. Rennie is fortunate in her parents, who are as honest, good-hearted, and unbiased as it is possible to be, and she is close to both. Over the next two years, Rennie must cope not only with her own burgeoning womanhood, but with some truly fearful things, including murder, the MIA status of her brother, the chronic illness of her mother, and the racial issues that are tearing her town apart. Yet Rennie is not the central character in this book. While it might have been easier for Dallas to present her moral issues in terms of black and white, she takes the more difficult path, and the person who is entrusted with the moral dilemma at the plot’s climax is Mrs. Stroud, who would rather “step on baby chickens than tell a lie”. It is her ability, and no less her willingness, to dispassionately weigh causes and consequences and to act against her own predispositions, that provides that moral fulcrum for this story.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Tallgrass is a skillful reframing of that truth.

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