"Grinning and Happy" is an excerpt from a full novel, Obasan, written by Joy Kogawa. The excerpt is written as the unspoken thoughts of the main character, who represents Kogawa in thought and action, as she reacts to the discovery of a newspaper cutting from years earlier.
The entire story presents the irony of the caption under the newspaper picture, "Grinning and Happy", as contrasted with what the author remembers about the time in her life being pictured and described in the accompanying article. The author was neither "grinning" nor "happy" during the time when she and her family were forcibly relocated away from their home and made to work the sugar beet fields.
She presents a series of "hardship" memories brought back by the article. "Flies...the chicken coop 'house'...bedbugs...standing in the beet field...cold..." The story is her version of the situation. "'Grinning and happy' and all smiles standing around a pile of beets? That is one telling. It's not how it was."