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Posts Tagged ‘world war II’

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My former Minnesota boss, Ann Ribbens, has always quilted, even when her day job was something completely different. Her quilts have been in a number of shows and in a book published by Mary Ann’s company, Quarry: 1000 Quilt Inspirations, by Sandra Sider.

Recently, one of Ann’s quilts was accepted by the Brush Gallery in Lowell, Massachusetts, for an art exhibit honoring veterans. The show was diverse and included military artifacts, paintings, and photography. I thought Ann’s quilt was especially wonderful.

The quilt narrates the stories of three family members who served — one in the Boer War (lower left panel), one in World War II (upper left), and one in Vietnam (upper right). The fourth panel expresses her longing for peace and an end to all that veterans suffer in war and on their return from war.

I love the combination of gratitude and hope that these portraits represent, the war colors expressing the heat of battle and the cool blue expressing serenity.

The exhibit was presented in conjunction with Ironstone Farm of Andover, Massachusetts, which provides veterans who have experienced trauma and anxiety with a healing “equine encounter” one day a week for eight weeks. (“I never thought a horse could teach me so much about myself,” says one participant.)

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My friend was born and raised in Hawaii. His parents were Japanese-American. His mother was sent to an internment camp during World War II. It’s a complicated story how she got released and ended up in Japan for the war’s duration. Something like a prisoner swap. She returned to Hawaii after the war and raised a family.

My friend was invited to talk to fifth graders about his mother’s experience in the camp. He was reluctant. It’s painful to think about. Would young children get it?

In the end, he went, and it was a good experience for him as well as for the kids. I think he had an impact on how they think about differences in our multicultural society. And their curiosity and understanding was a comfort to him.

Here is what he put on Facebook this spring.

“Last week I spoke to two classes of fifth graders about my mom’s experience in a Japanese-American relocation camp during World War II. After the talk, one of the students asked me why the Japanese-Americans had been relocated to camps but the German-Americans hadn’t. Wow, I could have hugged that boy for asking such a perceptive question, and I was also touched by how the students were able to draw a parallel between the Japanese-American discrimination decades ago and the anti-Muslim sentiment that’s currently been gaining so much traction in the U.S. and elsewhere.”

My friend posted a family photo that he goes on to describe. It is not the photo I put below.

“This photo, taken in the mid 1930s, is of my mom and her younger sister when they were growing up in downtown Honolulu, before they were forced to relocate to a camp in Arkansas. My mom looks like she’s around the age of the students I was talking to last week, and when I showed those students this photo I got a little emotional imagining my mom as a young girl being in that classroom too, listening to me tell her story. In such ways, our stories really do have such raw power to connect people through different generations and cultures, which, I suppose, is why I first became interested in becoming a writer all those years ago.”

America has always needed people like my friend’s mother — people who carry on and return benefits to the place that harmed them. And there are lots of them. Even in the town where I live, a couple who suffered internment during the war became quietly known for philanthropy to both the Nisei Student Relocation Commemorative Fund, Inc. and our town, donating all their reparation money to local high school scholarships.

Photo: Dorothea Lange
Some Japanese-Americans who suffered from internment in World War II
still chose to return kindness for hurt after the war.

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