Kristina McMorris, author of “Bridge of Scarlet Leaves,” will read from her book and speak at a public program set for the Japanese American National Museum on Saturday, July 14, beginning at 2 p.m.
The novel begins in 1941 when young Maddie Kern secretly elopes with her Japanese American boy friend, Lane Moritomo. Besides the turmoil created in both families over the interracial union (which was illegal in many states at that time), the newlyweds face an even greater challenge when the Japanese Imperial Navy bombs Pearl Harbor.
The U.S. government quickly moves against anyone of Japanese ancestry, including Lane’s immigrant father. When President Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066 on Feb. 19, 1942, it sets in motion the illegal forced removal of thousands of Japanese Americans from their homes and businesses and the mass incarceration of over 120,000 individuals.
Maddie chooses to accompany her husband and his family to Manzanar, but when Lane enlists in the U.S. Army, she is left to deal with her skeptical mother-in-law and Lane’s young sister. The novel also follows Maddie’s brother, T.J., who is Lane’s best friend, but feels betrayed by his sister’s marriage.
McMorris, whose father is Japanese, based much of her novel on true stories she had heard and historic research. While interracial marriage was rare in this era, she discovered that about 200 cases were reported of non-Japanese accompanying their spouses to camp during the war. One of the most famous was Estelle Peck Ishigo, whose story was the subject of Steven Okazaki’s Academy Award-winning short documentary, “Days of Waiting.”
This is McMorris’ second novel. Her first, “Letters from Home,” was based on the correspondence between her mother’s mother and her grandfather during World War II. Born in Seattle and raised in the Pacific Northwest, McMorris has a long background in public relations. She is currently working on her next novel.