Book Review: Beacon Hill Boys
This novel Beacon Hill Boys sets in the working-class Beacon Hill neighborhood of Seattle in the early 1970s. It’s the story of 16-year-old Dan Inagaki, whose parents would like him to emulate his older brother Brad, a star student with a college scholarship and a white girlfriend. But angry, frustrated Dan cares about other things: he and his friends are tired of being called "Oriental" by thoughtless teachers and they are struggling to understand their ethnic identity as Japanese Americans. I learn Dan’s age when he says, "At least I had a good year to go before I would have to register for the draft." In the next paragraph he precedes his physical attributes with, "Getting ready for the day left me with no choice but to look at myself in the mirror." Dan’s having a rough time at home, where his parents compare him to Brad and find him wanting, and at school, where his history teacher replies to his question about Japanese internment camps by saying, "We only teach American history around here." Dan joins with Native American and Chicano students to ask for a history class that addresses not only the camps but also "Cesar Chavez and Wounded Knee." When the Black Student Union gets involved, the school administration creates a class in comparative American cultures. Back at home, his father is far from pleased. "The nail that sticks up the highest gets hit the hardest," he tells Dan. "You better worry about what other people will think." When Dan complains, it’s with grim humor. He empathizes with a fluorescent light bulb that flickers before it dies: "I looked up and thought, you ain’t the only one having to eat it these days, brother man." But this young man has the stubborn spirit of a born activist, and he does more than just complain. When he has spent his spring break working at a family friend’s ice cream shop, his boss tells him, "I’ll put you on the payroll next week after you work the night shift a few more times and...
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