We’re so pleased to welcome author Michael Holloway Perronne to TNA today. Michael’s joining us to chat about his book Gardens of Hope, the story of two men who find themselves torn apart by World War II.
We Can’t Afford to Let History Repeat Itself
I have something to admit that doesn’t make me very proud.
As early as ten years ago, I knew basically nothing of the forced internment of over 100,000 Japanese-Americans who had never committed any crimes during World War II. I never learned anything on the subject during high school or university. It was if this part of our history had been wiped away, if it had ever been included, in our story as a country, the American narrative, and to an extent, I can understand why. We don’t like to think of ourselves as a society that would lock up innocent people, many American citizens, for years in prison camps due to irrational fears after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but it happened. And in this age of political talks regarding “registries” and “walls”, I believe the story of these tens of thousands American citizens who had their rights violated needs to be talked about more than ever.
My interest in learning more about Japanese-American internment began years ago when one of my co-workers revealed to me that she had been sent to the camp based in Arkansas as a girl. As young as she was during that time, she still had vivid memories of what it felt like to grow up behind barbed wire and treated at such a young age as a prisoner. I was moved by her story and honored that she shared it with me. Most of all, I was shocked that I knew nothing about this part of US history.
Not long after, I began working as a teacher in California and part of the state’s high school curriculum included Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston’s memoir “Farewell to Manzanar.” Manzanar, located about three hours north of Los Angeles, was one of ten internment camps set up by President Roosevelt’s administration after he approved Executive Order 9066 which cleared the way for Japanese-Americans to be sent to internment camps. Houston’s memoir is a moving account of her family’s experience of having to leave their entire lives behind for the stark, bleak desert in which Manzanar was hastily built by the government.
After reading “Farewell to Manzanar,” I was inspired to visit the remains of the camp itself which is now a national historic site. While most of the site was torn down decades ago after the war ended, what was the high school auditorium has been turned into a museum. Barracks, a guard tower, and a mess hall were also recreated to give visitors a better sense of what life had been like behind the confines of the fences. To say the visit was moving, was an understatement. The National Park Service did an excellent job taking visitors back to that time. That being said, I know that what I learned could still only be a sliver what the experience must have truly been like for those who lived it.
I continued reading both memoirs and fiction set in the camps, and slowly, a plot for my own novel discussing the topic began to form in my mind. I’d written a few gay fiction novels set in my native American South already, and I’d been wanting to branch out and depict other perspectives and timeframes on the subject. That’s when I began developing the idea of a forbidden love story between two men living in the different parts of the camp, one on the staff area ironically nicknamed “Beverly Hills” because of its much higher standard of living and the other in the bare minimum housing of the internees. The idea eventually grew into the plot for my novel “Gardens of Hope.”
February 19th will the be the 75th anniversary of Order 9066, and I strongly encourage readers to learn more about Japanese-American internment, and to think about how misplaced American fears to led our government to do the unthinkable. Some of the details are eerily similar to a lot of the hate speech we’re hearing today regarding American minority groups.
We can’t afford to let history repeat itself, and our children deserve a much better legacy.
For more on the Manzanar Historic site, please visit nps.gov/manz
About the Book
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.
You can buy Gardens of Hope at Amazon.com
About the Author
Michael Holloway Perronne is the author of eight books including: “A Time Before Me,” “Falling Into Me”, “A Time Before Us, Men Can Do Romance” “Gardens of Hope,” and “Embrace the Rain.” His debut novel, “A Time Before Me” won the Bronze Award, Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year Award in the Gay/Lesbian fiction category.
Michael was born and raised in Mississippi. He received a BA in Film from the University of Southern Mississippi and a MFA in Drama and Communications from the University of New Orleans.
He currently resides in Southern California and is working on his next novel, “The Other Side of Happy.”
Visit Michael at michaelperronne.com