I EXPECTED Stone Voices: Wartime Writings of Japanese Canadian Issei (Vehicule, 205 pages, $14.95 paper), edited by Keibo Oiwa, to deliver what it promises, but I didn't expect it to have so much appeal for the general reader. Each "voice" is a unique and very private window on the Japanese-Canadian experience. Together, however, these diaries, letters, and reminiscences create something larger. What's contained within covers here is a testament to the infinite variety and resilience of human nature, presented with exceptional honesty and depth of feeling.
Keibo Oiwa has chosen his contributors well. They include Koichiro Miyazaki (1902-1978), the intellectual teacher who became a prisoner of war rather than "volunteer to go to a road camp for the sake of a pseudo-democracy"; Kensuke Kitagawa (1895-1974), who declared himself "grateful to God for putting me in this situation," and sent money from prison camp to buy milk for the cat he'd been forced to abandon; Kaoru Ikeda (1875-1946), who would not let feeling betrayed by the Canadian government prevent her from finding what joy she could in her new surroundings in the interior of British Columbia; and the remarkable Genshichi Takahashi, who taught himself to be an independent thinker and whose complete autobiography - if the excerpts included here are a fair sample -should be published in full without delay. Stone Voices is an important book for Japanese-Canadians. It should be required reading for the rest of us, too.