#FlashFriday #Fictioneers: “Behind Barbed Wire”

This is another very busy week as I get ready for the Oklahoma Writers Federation 2012 Story Weavers Conference, as well as William Bernhardt’s writing seminar. But, I couldn’t pass up sharing an excerpt of Broken Dolls, my novel centered around a Japanese-American family sent to live behind barbed wire following the attack on Pearl Harbor.

This scene takes place when Sachi first gets off the train that transported thousands of Japanese-Americans from California to Arkansas.

I look forward to reading the variety of stories prompted by Madison Woods‘ photo. I apologize ahead of time if it takes me some time to read them!

Behind Barbed Wire

     There it was, just beyond a big field of cotton: Rohwer Relocation Center. Rows and rows of black tar-papered buildings. Guard towers with soldiers wearing rifles over their shoulders. All surrounded by barbed wire.

People from the town stood outside the camp and stared, just like they’d stared in California. Only they dressed different from Californians. Some wore overalls. Some didn’t even have shoes on. But strangest of all? In dust that swirled in the wind, colored people stood on one side of the street, whites on the other. And all of them stared like they’d never seen Japanese people before.

This entry was posted in Broken Dolls, fictioneers, Flash Fiction, internment camp, Japanese-American, Madison Woods, Pearl Harbor, World War II and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to #FlashFriday #Fictioneers: “Behind Barbed Wire”

  1. Amanda Gray says:

    This portrayed well the sense of confusion of the Japanese – Americans on the inside and the rest of America on the outside. A dark time in our history
    here is mine http://createrealitylivelife.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/flash-fiction-story/


  2. Very poignant indeed. With our heritages we have different views of the 2nd war to end all wars, don’t we?
    Here’s mine: http://www.rochelle-wisoff.blogspot.com


  3. oldentimes says:

    What a different perspective! I am really enjoying the ideas the photo triggered. mine can be found here: http://oldentimes.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/hog-tight-it-endures/


  4. Neat take on the prompt Jan. That first paragraph paints the setting wonderfully.


  5. keliwright says:

    You’re back! Missed you. 🙂 I’m looking forward to the Conference as well, and I wish Berhardt’s writing seminar was in my cards, too, but… Have a great time.

    I read this through a few times. Each time brought a little nuance I hadn’t noticed before. I like that in a story/scene. The overriding feeling, for me, was incongruity. So many elements that seem out of place, and yet I know they aren’t. A nice sense of the alien and alienation and, on a different level, the ever-amazing ability we humans have for the oppressed to become the oppressor. A simple, even understated, scene that packs a punch.


    • janmorrill says:

      Thank you, Keli. I do feel like I’ve been out of it for a few weeks. But, hopefully after OWFI, I’ll get back to “normal.” I look forward to seeing you at the conference. I think you’ll really enjoy it!

      Thank you so much for your detailed critique!


  6. Gary says:

    A dark part of US history from the perspective of those unfairly imprisoned – a very intriguing story.

    Mine’s this-a-way:


  7. That was very evocative, Jan, and hopefully a reminder of what injustices we can perpetrate by what we now call racial profiling.
    I thought there were punctuation choices to be considered, such as “…field of cotton: Rohwer Relocation Center” and “…rifles over their shoulders, all surrounded by barbed wire.”
    Nice image at the end, with black and white people both staring at the Japanese.


    • janmorrill says:

      You’re right, Carlos. It’s a very slippery slope. That’s why I think it’s so important for us to remember even the unpleasant parts of our history, though we seem to want to avoid those parts. Thank you, too, for your critique. I agree with the colon and will change that. My goal with the short sentence fragments was to try to get the ready to feel the anxiety of Sachi as she noticed everything in the strange, new world.


  8. EmmaMc says:

    This image has triggered so many diverse tales this week. Very powerful perspective from the Japanese and their feeling of alienation. You managed to get feelings of loneliness and tension across so well in this.



  9. Sandra says:

    Very sensitively drawn comparison of segregation in every sense of the word. Beautifully described. I’ve no idea what tar-paper was, until I looked it up, but I could still see it in my mind’s eye. Nice work Jan.


  10. Lora Mitchell says:

    It’s almost unbelievable that this actually took place here in America…but it occurred during a time when everyone was frightened…panicked, not knowing who was a patriot, a collaborator or a spy. Pearl Harbor was such a surprise…shock. I’m old enough to remember the fear … and grandparents landing at Ellis Island, barely escaping Hitler…and they weren’t even Jewish. These stories need to be told…Jan, I commend you for writing your story…and I LOVE the “Doll” title. Here’s mine:


  11. So much history, information and tension in only 100 words. You’ve done a great job. Mine is similar, and can be found here: http://readinpleasure.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/fridayfictioneers-sobibor/


  12. TheOthers1 says:

    What a great take. A perspective on the events of the past we don’t usually get. Excellent job.

    My attempt: http://unduecreativity.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/sharp/


  13. Russell says:

    Your snippet fit extremely well with the prompt.

    I was late this week, but finally got out there.


  14. erinleary says:

    Jan – I recenly finished “Nisei Daughter” which is an autobiographical account of a Seattle girl’s life in the internment camps in the northwest. Your piece made me think of that – you’ve captured the feelings well from that time.

    Thanks for stopping by mine!



  15. Great illustration and even better use of the photo prompt. I especially like the point of discrimination within discrimination. Well played.

    ~Susan (here’s mine: http://www.susanwenzel.com)


  16. siobhanmuir says:

    This was a great piece, Jan, even if I hate that time in history. I grew up in WA and we had concentration camps for the Japanese Americans, too. Your writing is beautiful and captures the feeling of the characters, enough to make me want to turn away. Well done. 🙂

    Here’s mine:



  17. Madison Woods says:

    The part that struck me hardest was when the people were watching the Japanese enter the camp, whites on one side blacks on the other. Both equally curious, I guess. Sad, the things we do to each other.


  18. Janet says:

    Jan, I think this is brilliant, you conjur up confusion and a sense of alienation between all three cultures. And you’re right about needing to remember dark moments in our history – we did the same thing to Japanese Candians and it’s important not to forget.


  19. A well-told scene that invokes a dozen ideas. One among them: why the heck are we humans so silly? (Whites on one side, blacks on the other, both looking askance at the Japanese…)
    Thanks for sharing.
    Here’s mine: http://the-drabbler.com/trespass/


  20. Jan, are you pretty much finished with your novel? If not, I have an interesting story for you from a Rowher internee that you might like to include in some way.


  21. The snippets that you’ve shared make me eager to read the book in its entirety. Your images are so clearly written that I picture them easily in my mind. “Cold Case” featured this travesty in one of their episodes. I love the historical aspect–it’s a shame that it’s such a black mark, though.

    Mine: http://www.vlgregory-circa1800.vpweb.com/blog.html


  22. tedstrutz says:

    This is excellent writing. I must investigate further.

    Some of my friends in high school were born in the relocation camp at Tule Lake camp. In Sacramento, I had many asian friends… I loved your last line.


  23. Beth Carter says:

    Powerful story. Well done. I can see the differently dressed folks from AR lining the street, mouths agape. Sad but true observation separating the blacks and whites on opposite sides of the street. I wouldn’t have known about their curiosity over seeing Japanese Americans.

    Is this hard for your mom to read? I’m sure she’s honored that you’re writing about her life, as sad and hard as it must have been.


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