You don’t even KNOW how excited I am by today’s author. This summer I stumbled upon The List (2013) by Karin Tanabe; I loved the wit, the excitement and the mystery of her writing. Long story short, we ended up connecting and she’s here with us today, highlighting her newest novel, The Diplomat’s Daughter. I’m in the middle of it now, and it’s mesmerizing and haunting all at the same time. Enjoy this story behind her story and leave a comment to win a copy!
Tell us a bit about yourself, will you? I’m a thirty-something journalist turned novelist who grew up in a nest of books. During my entire childhood, my dad was a book editor for Book World, The Washington Post, and he would bring home a stack of books every single day. And we’re talking every single day for the decades that he worked there. Not to mention that he’s a total pack rat so even after we read these books, we didn’t give them away. I used to joke with my parents that eventually we were all going to be buried alive by charming first editions. That’s a long way of saying that my love of reading and writing was pretty much set out for me from day one. Every book I wanted, I received. But the best were the books I didn’t know I wanted, the gems my dad would leave for me on my bed, because he thought I would like them. These were the ones that totally transformed my world. (The most memorable of these was “Marjorie Morningstar,” which granted me my first HUGE literary crush.) Sometimes I read in bed, or in the bathtub, but my favorite place to read was the garage. I created this weird chair out of old tires and I would lounge in it with a good book in hand every free moment I got. I knew that one day I wouldn’t just read books, I would write them. Of course that’s easier said than done, so I worked as a print journalist before getting my first book deal in 2012.
Other than reading and writing, I’m a total Francophile who spends way too much time designing my dream apartment in Paris. I love city living (though I married a farm boy from Nebraska), walking with no destination, planning trips that I probably won’t have time to take, and I’ve recently become addicted to very over-priced cold-pressed juice, an addiction I clearly need to curb unless I sell about a million more books!
Let’s talk about your book: what, in a nutshell, is your book about anyway? The Diplomat’s Daughter is a book about three young people divided by WWII and their journeys to discover not only themselves in a difficult time but also to find each other again after the war displaces them. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, twenty-one-year-old Emi Kato, the daughter of a Japanese diplomat, is locked behind barbed wire in a Texas internment camp. There she deals with fence sickness and depression until she meets a handsome teenager named Christian Lange, whose German-born parents were wrongfully arrested for un-American activities. Christian is from Wisconsin and a total corn fed all-American boy who is completely shocked by his circumstances. But things brighten a bit for him when he meets Emi. Together, they live as prisoners with thousands of other German and Japanese families, and slowly start to fall in love.
After years in the camps, Emi is finally sent back to Japan, and Christian enlists in the Army, hoping that it might take him to Japan and back to Emi. But what he doesn’t know is that there’s another guy named Leo Hartmann. Emi met Leo in Austria when her father was the consulate general there and they fell in love right as the Germans were taking over the country. Leo is now a Jewish refugee in Shanghai.
While Christian is in the Army, Emi’s parents send her to a resort town in Japan called Karuizawa, which is a unique place where Nazis, Jews and foreigners lived peacefully together. Emi risks her life to help keep her community safe, despite the terrible famine which has ravaged the country—all while wondering if the two men she loves are still alive.
Do tell, what was the inspiration behind it? The idea for The Diplomat’s Daughter actually came when I heard about actor and activist George Takei’s musical “Allegiance.” He was about to take it to Broadway and I told my husband that I wanted to go. The musical is about Japanese-Americans in internment camps during WWII. My father is Japanese and I’m first generation American. While none of my family was interned since my dad didn’t come to America until the sixties, I grew up knowing many people who were—we even have a family friend who was born in a camp. When we got to chatting about it, my husband, who is German-American, asked if any German-Americans were interned or if it was only the Japanese-Americans. He wanted to know if it was more of a question of race rather than going after those associated with the Axis Powers? I had no idea and started to look into it. I discovered that about 12,000 German-Americans were interned alongside 120,000 Japanese-Americans. From there, my book idea blossomed. I thought, wouldn’t it be interesting to have two people from totally different backgrounds, who are subject to terrible discrimination and harsh circumstances, yet are able to find love in an internment camp.
How do you hope readers will be changed by your words? First and foremost, I hope they just enjoy the words! In journalism, you have to write so fast that you don’t have time to polish every sentence. With books, you sort of do, and I hope that my readers will enjoy the language as much as they enjoy the story. I also hope that they’ll reflect on the theme of refugees and what it’s like to have most of the world rejecting you because of your faith, nationality, race, etc.
Lest we forget to ask, how have YOU been changed by writing the book? I certainly thought a lot about what it means to be an American while I was writing this book and what it would be like to have your own country imprison you. But I also thought about the dogged spirit of young people and how they always seem to find the silver lining during the bleakest of circumstances. This was also the first book where I wrote from the point of view of male protagonists, and not just one but two! It was intimidating at first, but I grew to really enjoy it and it’s something I hope to do again.
How and where can we find you on the internet? My real home on the internet is Pinterest. When I first joined, I actually got carpel tunnel from over pinning. I’m also on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter. On every site my user name is karintanabe (the joys of having a unique name!). I also have a website, www.karintanabe.com, where I have info about my books and some videos from my journalism days. There’s even one of me interviewing Sting.
Although I often highlight non-fiction, children’s and memoir, it’s pretty fun getting to feature one of my favorite fictional authors. And I don’t know about you, but I LOVED the interview with Karin today. If you’d like to win a copy of The Diplomat’s Daughter, simply leave a comment for her below. Contest ends on Monday, September 18th. Good luck!
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