In 1957 Japan, 17-year-old Naoko Nakamura has fallen in love with an American sailor and is pregnant with their child. In a culture that scorns interracial marriage and mixed-race offspring, Naoko is aware that these children are “a living reminder that we lost the war, that America’s radical Western beliefs intrude upon our traditions, that they have tainted our blood.”
Now Naoko worries about her unborn child, about the future of shame and scorn that awaits her baby. Though Naoko’s family has prearranged a marriage for her with the son of a wealthy businessman and has offered her a chance to abort the baby, she refuses. Instead, she chooses a path fraught with isolation, danger, and humiliation, for the sake of her child and her love for the American.
Decades later in present-day America, Tori Kovac’s father is dying. He urges his daughter to read a letter in his possession, but she puts it off until after his death. What she discovers there—her father’s connection to a woman and child in Japan—shakes to the core her trust in her father, and what he has meant to her mother and herself. Employing her skills as an investigative journalist, Tori sets out to discover her father’s Japanese connection—the woman in the white kimono.
This suspenseful, troubling novel for adults is based on historical events and interviews with Japanese-American women who survived their childhoods and were adopted. By turns horrifying and life-affirming, The Woman in the White Kimono sheds light on the reality that, as Johns states in an author’s note, “over 10,000 babies were born to American servicemen and Japanese women before, during and after the Occupation.” Many did not survive.