By Bruce Rutledge
The North American Post
Ruby Ishimaru is a Japanese American growing up in Hawaii. Koji Matsuo is a Japanese youth living in Hiroshima. World War II reshapes their lives, sending Ruby and family to incarceration camps on the mainland after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and forcing Koji to grapple with the effects of the grinding Japanese war machine and the atomic bomb dropped on his city all while hiding a secret.
That is the premise behind “Of White Ashes,” a resilient love story penned by Kent and Constance Hays Matsumoto and published by Apprentice House Press, an independent book publisher at Loyola University Maryland. The authors will be in town this January for two events in the Seattle area.
While the book is fiction, the Matsumotos say the story is based on the lives of Kent’s parents. His American mom was incacerated during World War II, and his American dad was in Hiroshima at the time of the bombing. The fictionalized version of their love story brings Ruby and Koji together in California, where they immediately fall in love and begin to forge a future together and heal from their personal traumas. But the danger of history repeating itself looms large. Can Ruby and Koji overcome the odds and live a happy life together despite what they had been through?
Connie and Kent say writing this novel as a couple has brought them closer together. While Kent’s parents rarely spoke to him of their wartime experiences when he was growing up, once he married Connie, his mother began to open up to her daughter in law.
The choice to turn this family memoir into fiction gave the writers more artistic license and freed them from worrying about what other family members thought of their depiction of Ruby and Koji.
The Matsumotos will be in the Seattle area for two special presentations and book signings on January 9 and 10. They’ll be at Eagle Harbor Book Co. on Bainbridge Island on Jan. 9 at 6:30 and at Island Books on Mercer Island on Jan. 10 at 6. Both events are free and open to the public.
The Matsumotos also donate a portion of their book sales to the Japanese American Memorial Pilgrimages.
If you are a fan of historical fiction, especially fiction that combines a love story with the harrowing events of World War II, be sure to catch one of these events.