‘ Illuminating a difficult history’ | TheUnion.com

‘ Illuminating a difficult history’

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The literary reading series Yuba Lit will return Sept. 12 with a locally relevant and timely program: acclaimed Auburn novelist Christian Kiefer discussing his new novel, “Phantoms.”

Near the end of World War II, hundreds of Japanese Americans were sent from the Placer County towns of Penryn, Loomis and Newcastle to desolate internment camps at Tule Lake and beyond. Most of these Americans never returned to the homes from which they were torn. Kiefer’s novel is dedicated to these families: The Asazawas, the Nakashimas, the Yoshidas and many more. It imagines the experience of a fictional family, the Takahashis, whose son Ray fought in World War II while his parents and siblings were sent to the camps. Kiefer will read and discuss “Phantoms” at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12 at the Wild Eye Pub in Grass Valley.

“I couldn’t be more energized about bringing Yuba Lit back with Christian and his gorgeously written, eye-opening novel,” said Yuba Lit Founder Rachel Howard. “It rises to the level of great American literature, while illuminating a difficult history many people in Placer and Nevada County are unaware of. Personally, I had no idea how many Japanese Americans thrived as orchardists and farmers in Placer County before World War II. Christian’s novel transported me to that past. It’s a morally complex novel that keeps you on the edge of your seat.”

The novel’s action begins in 1985, when a Vietnam veteran, John Wilson, returns to the Placer County land he and Ray both knew as home, and begins to piece together the entwined history of their families: The Wilsons who rented their property to the skilled Japanese-American farmers, and the Takahashis, who were sent away on buses, their lives forever changed.

“Christian’s novel transported me to that past. It’s a morally complex novel that keeps you on the edge of your seat.”— Rachel HowardYuba Lit Founder

As a starred Kirkus review raved: “It’s a complex narrative structure, but this allows Kiefer to constantly overlay past and present and to recognize, through John (Wilson), the cycles in which his character, and in fact the country, remains trapped — cycles of racism, cycles of war, and cycles of young men who return home guilty of crimes, the full ramifications of which they couldn’t possibly understand … It will break your heart, and in the breaking, fill you with bittersweet but luminous joy.”

Kiefer is also the author of the novels “The Animals” and “The Infinite Tides,” and serves as West Coast Editor for The Paris Review.


In addition to Kiefer’s reading and an extended Q&A moderated by Howard, this Yuba Lit will also include the return of Yuba Lit’s opening audience flash readings. Attendees who bring a page or a poem of their own writing to share will be given a raffle ticket; five audience members will be chosen by raffle to read their work.

“Christian’s novel is so beautifully written, and the historical context around it so profound, that I wanted him to be the sole featured writer for this return of Yuba Lit,” said Howard. “At the same time, we are eager for the return of the Yuba Lit community and its talents! The audience flash readings are always so unexpected, varied and inspiring. We had to include them.”

The community emphasis will continue with an intermission for mingling and meeting new friends. Audience members are encouraged to purchase food or drink from the Wild Eye Pub to thank the venue for its support of the program.

Tickets are $10 at the door, $8 in advance, with online tickets available at wildeyepub.com. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. The Wild Eye Pub is located at 535 Mill St., Grass Valley. More information can be found at http://www.yubalit.org or http://www.facebook/yubalit.

More on Yuba Lit

Yuba Lit is a fiscally sponsored project of the Nevada County Arts Council, a not-for-profit organization. The series is also grateful to Harmony Books for selling copies of “Phantoms” at the event.

“I’ve always felt that the best thing about Yuba Lit is the inquisitive, insightful people who come and the community we create together,” said Howard, who held the first Yuba Lit presentation in September of 2015 and put the series on hiatus last fall. “Ten months since our last gathering feels like far too long! I hope the wonderful Yuba Lit community will return, and bring their questions for Christian Kiefer about his luminous and revelatory book. And I look forward to future Yuba Lits already being organized for November, January, and beyond.”

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