Gloria Levitas

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 842

["The Golden Bees of Tulami"] teeters—sometimes precariously—between imagination and reality. Bonham's didacticism seems more obvious in this book than in his previous stories of the Dogtown ghetto, and his ironic humor here serves less as commentary than background…. Bonham hopefully suggests that myths can help to nourish, even if they...

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["The Golden Bees of Tulami"] teeters—sometimes precariously—between imagination and reality. Bonham's didacticism seems more obvious in this book than in his previous stories of the Dogtown ghetto, and his ironic humor here serves less as commentary than background…. Bonham hopefully suggests that myths can help to nourish, even if they cannot ensure, a happy and more human future. (p. 10)

Gloria Levitas, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1974 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), November 10, 1974.

The shallow plot of Mystery in Little Tokyo traces the disappearance and recovery of a trunkful of old samurai swords by Danny and Carol Nomura, who are staying with their grandparents in Los Angeles' "Little Tokyo" community.

Visions of inscrutable, strange and mysterious "Orientals" haunt the story, taking such forms as the unscrupulous, "shifty eyed" Mr. Kaji…. In one scene, Mr. Kaji threatens to kill himself rather than lose face, in keeping with the romanticized stereotype of Japanese as super-proud people.

Central to the plot is a foolish and longstanding feud between the dogmatic and spiteful Grandpa Nomura and his neighbor, the "stubborn" Mr. Shinoda, over a prized samurai sword which they both covet. Both characters are merchants…. An offensively negative image of the Japanese American community as a tourist trap for shoppers is presented through the character of a Japanese American policeman, one of whose main jobs is to keep order in "Little Tokyo" so that the merchants won't "be ruined" by people who "would be afraid to shop here."

Grandma Nomura is a clucking, apologetic woman who cooks her way through the story (in one scene she is criticized for not getting the breakfast waffles to the table fast enough)….

Despite some effort on the author's part to examine life in a Japanese American community, the book remains essentially a superficial and exploitative venture. (p. 18)

Interracial Books for Children Bulletin (reprinted by permission of Interracial Books for Children Bulletin, 1841 Broadway, New York, N.Y. 10023), Vol. 7, Nos. 2 & 3, 1976.

[Burma Rifles: A Story of Merrill's Marauders] describes the heroic service of Nisei men as combat interpreters for "Merrill's Marauders" in Burma during World War II. Based on fact, the story is a readable and interesting "war adventure."… However, its adventurous tone detracts from the author's attempt to show that the Nisei were expected to be 200 per cent Americans despite the racist violence committed against them.

The fault is not only one of omission, but of emphasis. The author's description of white American attitudes toward the Nisei during the months following Pearl Harbor, and prior to the internment of West Coast Japanese Americans, is good but does not reveal the depth of white hostility. Mr. Bonham leads readers to believe that abuse of Japanese American property was the fullest extent of that hostility when, in fact, the Nisei feared for their lives. The cruel herding of the Nisei into wartime assembly centers is not cited except to say that they were limited to "one suitcase each" and were picked up by trucks (in reality, they were often transported like cattle). No mention is made of the machine gun-toting guards or of the barbed wire that surrounded the camps. In the absence of such references, readers may not grasp the irony of a situation in which young Nisei had to demonstrate loyalty and heroism in service to a country which had confined them and their families in concentration camps as "traitors."…

Mr. Bonham admires the Nisei but, like many white "friends" of Japanese Americans, he seems to believe that his good will allows him latitude. One seriously questions how well the author understands the real reason the Nisei soldiers fought to prove their loyalty to this country—that despite being considered "Japs," they struggled against prejudice and suspicion to be regarded as "Americans."… (p. 20)

Interracial Books for Children Bulletin (reprinted by permission of Interracial Books for Children Bulletin, 1841 Broadway, New York, N. Y. 10023), Vol. 7, Nos. 2 & 3, 1976.

The oxygen-and vitamin-starved environment of San Diego some years in the future [in The Missing Persons League] makes [twentieth-century] Dogtown look like paradise…. [Brian Foster's] trouble begins when he determines to track down his mother and sister, who disappeared a year before in an apparently patternless epidemic of missing persons. The response to his ad in the Personals column of the local newspaper includes visits from the Environmental Police, who leave a bugging device in the kitchen; a letter, apparently from Charles Dickens, which directs him to an antimatter planet called Arret; and the friendly interest of Heather Morse. Heather herself is brainwashed by someone who calls every night with instructions cued in by strains of a Brahms lullaby, and she puts Brian in touch with his own "conductor", the yellow-coveralled Gumball King…. Oddly, only the utopian dream held out by the ending seems like science fiction; Brian's stainless steel wrapped, quick frozen reality is chillingly convincing, and this time round the hypnotically slick gimmicks that turn Bonham's plot into a minefield are part and parcel of the message. (p. 909)

Kirkus Reviews (copyright © 1976 The Kirkus Service, Inc.), August 15, 1976.

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