The title of the story, The Invisible Thread, refers to the bond between the Japanese and American aspects of Uchida’s world. As a child, she developed an awareness of the dichotomy between the American and Japanese parts of her life, and this dichotomy figured strongly in Uchida’s search for self-identity. In choosing events to include in her autobiography, Uchida concentrates specifically on stories that illustrate this duality. She felt divided: Although she considered herself American, she still had to worry about whether neighbors would object to a Japanese family moving in next door, and she asked “Do you cut Japanese hair?” when she went for her first professional haircut. While many young adults do not have such obvious differences with the society in which they live, they are confronting their own sense of alienation and search for self-identity and will find much in common with Uchida’s struggles.
Structurally, the book has two sections, although it is formally divided only into chapters. The first part of the book relates events typical of Uchida’s background and how these events influenced the person she became. Each chapter is a collection of memories around a theme or event—what Sundays were like in the Japanese community, her parents’ history, family vacations, a visit to Japan. Uchida adopts a nostalgic tone in these stories, one anecdote leading to another and all illustrating experiences that Uchida believes shaped her life. While her stories progress through time, they do not form a strictly chronological narrative. Such events as visits from Japanese guests and Sunday activities remained constant throughout Uchida’s early life. She...
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Yoshiko Uchida was a noted children’s author who published collections of Japanese stories for children and many stories with Japanese American protagonists. She also wrote other autobiographical works that focus specifically on her experiences in a relocation camp during World War II: Journey to Topaz (1971), Journey Home (1978), and Desert Exile (1982). Because relatively few works focusing on the Asian American experience exist for young adult readers, Uchida’s book is valuable for the insight that it gives. Another work that does focus on the Asian American experience is Laurence Yep’s autobiography The Lost Garden (1991), and Uchida and Yep share the common theme of searching for an identity between two cultures.
Uchida’s autobiography makes an important contribution to the literature available on World War II. While The Invisible Thread is factual, Bette Greene’s Summer of My German Soldier (1973) presents a fictional account of how the war touched a young American girl in the United States. Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl (1947) makes less remote the tragedy of German concentration camps by allowing readers to develop a personal relationship with one of the victims of German injustice, while Uchida achieves much the same effect by providing an account by one of the victims of American injustice. The contrast between the situations provides young readers with the opportunity to examine war and its effects on people and governments.