By Joy Misako St. Germain
For The North American Post
“A Shrug of the Shoulders,” a new novel by Elaine Cockrell, is an engaging love story of George Yano and Molly Mita, from two Japanese American families who experience and survive the incarceration during World War II. Their white neighbors, the Hertzog family and Ed and Rex Allen, learn to become their allies. They recognize the injustice of the government’s removal of Japanese Americans from the West Coast and their own biases. They then acknowledge their shared values as farmers and members of the local community.
Cockrell skillfully weaves the stories of the two JA farming families through the locations of their Central Washington farms, the Portland Oregon assembly center, Camp Minidoka in Idaho, and Eastern Oregon’s sugar beet fields. The friendship and kindness offered by individuals, including church missionaries, contrast with the hatred and racism that prevailed when 110,000 JAs were first incarcerated. The title of the book reflects the Japanese expression “Shikata ga nai.” (It cannot be helped). The novel highlights the humanity, perseverance and love that helped rebuild the future for the Yano and Mita families.