Part of any discussion about historical fiction might consider the “real” story behind a novel, sometimes for students simply to appreciate the link between their own world and that of the past or to better understand the author’s purpose in telling the story at the time written. As I explained in my novel’s acknowledgments, I did not want to divert readers’ attention from the story’s timeless truths, internal tensions, and complex emotions with guesses as to what “real” person is behind each character or what action did or did not “really” happen. Hence, as clear as I was in calling out by name family and friends who had helped in my research, I did not pinpoint the identity of anyone behind the main characters.
As news of publication spread, however, a few applauded the novel as a retelling of a story they knew first hand or desired acknowledgment of the link between historical and fictional people. While hoping not to spoil the book-reading experience, I will therefore close this web page by noting that the overall storyline is based on the lives of S/Sgt. Shiro “Kash” Kashino and his wife, Louise; their interactions with Kash’s lieutenant, Sadaichi Kubota; and the work of Kubota, U. S. Senator Daniel Inouye, U.S. Representative Patsy Mink, and 442nd veteran William Y. Thompson, at the helm at various times in seeking justice for Kashino.
Please do not let these words dull the point of the novel, which brings to fresh, dramatic life the tensions, frustrations, and triumphs within this shameful part of American history. As with other works of historical fiction, the thoughts and actions of all characters, including the roster of comrades that populate the novel, are vividly imagined and presented, and readers learn with their hearts and minds as they themselves deliberate with the characters, feel their hopes and fears, and identify with similar circumstances in their own lives and times. In the end, Hiro’s War celebrates how honest and direct communication, true compassion, moral courage, and integrity can defeat the forces of over-weening self-interest, manipulation, bigotry, and exclusion on a personal and national scale. But the road is hard, and we can never let our guard down, on any front.
The Kashino saga has received passionate treatment in a variety of media, including Vincent Matsudaira’s documentary DVD, Kash: The Legend and Legacy of Shiro Kashino, and Lawrence Matsuda’s and Matt Sasaki’s graphic novel, An American Hero: Shiro Kashino, which came to animated life in a video by Shannon Gee and Randy Eng. I am proud to add Hiro’s War to these efforts.
Soon after the fight for justice concluded, Densho.org interviewed the three people most involved in the final stages of that battle. I had the privilege of knowing them all and encourage you to hear what they had to say.