WHAT THE SCARECROW SAID
Winner, Avery & Jule Hopwood Award
Finalist, Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award
Outstanding Achievement, Wisconsin Library Association
Arizona Humanities Council, Community Book Program Selection
"Editor's Recommendation," San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle
Publisher’s nomination for Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award
WHAT THE REVIEWERS SAID
"[What the Scarecrow Said ] is a success on all levels...The author has done an admirable job mixing his own, obviously prodigious research into an exciting, compelling story that turns on one of the most shameful events in American history." - Portland Oregonian
"[Ikeda’s] perceptive and moving first novel provides a fresh perspective to the body of literature about Japanese Americans during World War II...This is a novel ambitious in its historical scope and touching in its sensitive depiction of the human tragedy and the sometimes superhuman grace of being able to forgive." - San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle – "Editors Recommendation"
"If your book groups ‘loved’ Snow Falling on Cedars (as mine did), and found it a means to learn and talk about the historical injustices of our World War II treatment of Japanese Americans, you may want to think of What the Scarecrow Said as a sequel-that-is-better-than-the-original...Guterson describes acts of bigotry; Ikeda’s characters experience, and transcend, racism in their daily lives. [Ikeda’s] sensitive rendering of three successive generations conveys both what is universal and what is particular to the Japanese American community." - Friends Journal
"This rich and multilayered...rewarding first novel provides satisfying entertainment while examining a distressing period in American history. Recommended for most fiction collections." - Library Journal
"A remarkable first novel...Powerful and unforgettable. Stewart Ikeda has looked long into the bleak moment and seen its horrors, but out of that time he has written a moving and tender novel about extreme courage." - Ann Arbor Observer
"What the Scarecrow Said lives up to the best tradition of the historical novel. This is a good summer read that lingers long after the covers close." - San Antonio Express News
"This generous story of psychological healing–eschewing both the traditionally heroic treatment of the time and a revisionist, damning one–provides a version of wartime life that may be as true as any." - Publisher’s Weekly
"Ikeda’s novel is not merely a dramatization of history. A skillful storyteller...Ikeda provides a novel that, while familiar in its background, is also filled with surprising turns." - Confrontation
"Ikeda calls this first effort a historical novel. Although it is indeed based on historical incidents and is stylistically more realistic than Joy Kogawa's Obasan (1981), the novel's general effect is far more lyrical than, say, a Michener novel. Most literature published on the WWII concentration camp experiences of Japanese Americans has been written by, and largely about, women. Ikeda's novel is, therefore, unusual and welcome at the very least because it details the life of a Nisei man, beginning with his mother's having her legs tied together until her ship docks at an American port so that her son will be born American and ending with the son's death as an old man before the U.S. has made a formal apology and reparation…The novel deserves the attention of scholars of Asian American literature and history and of any reader looking for a satisfying story." - J. Tharp, Choice
"Because Ikeda refuses to compromise, to make stereotypes of victimized and victimizer, he achieves characterizations of complex human and historical density..." - Erica Harth, Brandeis Review
"Ikeda's ambitious new novel approaches the subject of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II from an unusual perspective. The greater portion of the novel is set in 1944 upon a craggy New England hill, which a middle-aged Nisei, released from the camps and hired as gardener by an independent-minded Irish American widow, is attempting to turn into a real farm. Through a series of flashbacks, the earlier life of William Fujita is portrayed…The New England scenes are especially vivid…often haunting [in] descriptions of Fujita's encounters with the alien terrain and climate of Massachusetts, and in its tender portrayal of his blossoming friendships on the hill." - Joseph Milicia, MultiCultural Review
"At a time when the Smithsonian atom bomb exhibit and national history standards are edited for anti-American content, [Ikeda's] first novel What the Scarecrow Said is a revelation. Thorough historical research meets epic novel in his story of protagonist Bill Fujita, and what merges is a long overdue "history from below," a surprisingly detailed account of life during World War II viewed through the eyes of an interned Japanese American [who] must start over in the present while trying to understand and communicate the past. The latter is also Ikeda's task -- one that he fulfills admirably with a wealth of historical detail. Some of the book's most effective passages are Ikeda's imagining and recreating of Japanese Americans' responses: to the poster that declared their imprisonment; to the U.S. government's 'loyalty question,' to a sociologist's questionnaire to the internees. At the same time, Ikeda is careful not to represent the "Japanese American experience" in Fujita or in any of the book's characters." - Jerome Chou, A. Magazine
"[A] solid exploration of difficult times--a first novel that is never so weighed down by politics as to overshadow the importance of the personal stories at its center." - Kirkus Reviews
WHAT THE WRITERS SAID
Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, A Farewell to Manzanar (with James D. Houston)
"A beautiful story!"
Gregory Maguire, Wicked
"I was greatly pleased to find Stewart David Ikeda’s novel, What the Scarecrow Said, in my hands. It is an auspicious debut. Here is the life story of William Fujita, family man and farmer, who is caught in the crosswinds of a difficult historical moment. The quality of compassion and understanding for Fujita’s plight never allow us to simplify or codify our understandings of the Japanese-American plight during World War II; Ikeda, though a young writer, is already too good to deal in generalizations. What Ikeda accomplishes in What the Scarecrow Said is vast, subtle, and very welcome indeed.
Nicholas Delbanco, The Writer’s Trade and Running in Place
"[Mr.] Ikeda has a topic here of authentic interest, and his strategies of presentation are original throughout. He has a natural tale-teller’s bent, a graceful way with dialogue, a diction that’s quirky in just the right way...I have great faith in this novel, and admiration for its author: all augurs well indeed."
Charles Baxter, A Relative Stranger and Shadowplay
"Ikeda’s is a richly textured and layered book that sets characters, cultures, and histories into counterpoint, and the result is a finely tuned story about forms of animosity and love both inside and outside the Asian-American community during a difficult historical period."
Kelly Cherry, My Life and Dr. Joyce Brothers and Writing the World
"Stewart David Ikeda has written a large, rich, encompassing and informative novel that causes us to re-think cultural perspectives. His varied characters, wrangly and reticent, inquisitive and dreamy, sensible and headstrong, move us deeply in their search for a place in the sun."
David Mura, Colors of Desire, Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei
"In a compelling and complex narrative, Ikeda explores the intricacies of race and identity against the backdrop of World War II and the internment of Japanese Americans. What the Scarecrow Said presents us with a new American hero, the Nisei William Fujita, as he works to retain his dignity and sanity amid a barrage of losses, both private and public, familial and political. Coming into the lives of two widows in a small New England town, Fujita surprises both them and the reader with his quiet resources and personal secrets. The result is a story of eloquence and pleasure, sadness and endurance, a revelation of the ways we Americans come to terms with our differences and our conflicting conceptions of who we are. This is a necessary novel, and I’m grateful for its presence."
Al Young, Sitting Pretty and Seduction by Light
"Because we regularly forget that the majority of Americans are descended from immigrants, migrant workers, indentured servants and slaves, this story of William Hiroshi Fujita–his ‘dangerous’ origins, his passions, his dreams, his suffering and struggles–seems crucially on-target. With imagination, soul, refreshing spells of zaniness, and with all-seeing eyes, Stewart David Ikeda evokes the very America that tormented and spiritualized a Japanese-American family like Fujita’s, a family addicted to hope and the future; a family invincibly American. Part allegory, part social saga, part mystery, part yarn, and wryly narrated, What the Scarecrow Said reads like a love story whose moving unfoldment spans the depth and breadth of the American Century...I have no doubt that this first novel [will] get a lot of attention, which it certainly deserves. What a striking, moving, thoroughly unpredictable read!"
Bret Lott, Jewel and Reed’s Beach
"The premise of this story is wonderful: a displaced Japanese American set in the midst of old New England during World War II. Immediately I found myself compelled to find out exactly what this man would do, how these widows would survive…The dream-like tone here, too, sets this off in a way that lends a bit of magic to the events, the geography, the time, the people...I like the feel of the characters, especially Mister Fujita, him letting out now and again with his ‘Pal,’ a great word that sets him off as distinctly American, which this story is."
Partial List of Media
A. Magazine | Ann Arbor Observer | Asian Journal | Berkeley AAirtime Radio | Chicago Shimbun | Confrontation | Contra Costa Times | Densho | East Bay Area Express Literary Supplement | Explanasian | Fiction Digest | Friends Journal | Hokubei Mainichi | Kalamazoo Gazette | Kirkus Reviews | L.A. Times | Library Journal | Madison Capitol Times | Madison Isthmus | Madison WISC-TV 3 | Madison WORT Radio | Main Line Today | Milwaukee Sentinel & Journal | Nichibei Times | Nikkeiwest | Oxford University Press Review | Pacific Citizen | Pasadena Presbyterian Clarion | Pasadena KPCC Public Radio | Portland Oregonian | Publishers Weekly | Rafu Shimpo | San Antonio Express | San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner | Santa Cruz Sentinel | Seattle Public Library Newsletter | Ten Magazine | Transpacific | University of Wisconsin Bridges | Washington DC City Paper | Weekly Standard | Wisconsin State Journal
Densho Review: Novels by Japanese American Authors Centered on WWII Incarceration