Kira-Kira: glittering; shining
Glittering. That’s how Katie Takeshima’s sister, Lynn, makes everything seem. The sky is kira-kira because its color is deep but see-through at the same time. The sea is kira-kira for the same reason. And so are people’s eyes. When Katie and her family move from a Japanese community in Iowa to the Deep South of Georgia, it’s Lynn who explains to her why people stop them on the street to stare. And it’s Lynn who, with her special way of viewing the world, teaches Katie to look beyond tomorrow. But when Lynn becomes desperately ill, and the whole family begins to fall apart, it is up to Katie to find a way to remind them all that there is always something glittering – kira-kira – in the future.
I read this book back in elementary school, so when I saw this in a thrift shop while vacationing in Monterey, I just had to pick it up. I didn’t remember much about this book, but as soon as I picked it up I remembered how much I loved it at the time. I was really excited to pick it up again because I knew that, being older, I’d probably understand the content quite a bit more and appreciate the writing style much more.
I did. I definitely did. It was so good. I really enjoyed reading a book from the perspective of a non-white person living in a time in America where white people were the norm, and anyone who was not white was either shunned or put in the spotlight like the contortionist in a freak show. It really gave me a perspective on what life was like before America became the melting pot, where people of all races are accepted for who they are.
I also really liked the fact that Katie’s family isn’t rich, but they’re still mostly happy and able to support themselves. It was also very realistic in that Katie’s parents’ jobs were very low-class. Both worked in factories. Her father works as a chicken sexer, while her mother works by cutting off the legs of chickens as they go down a conveyer belt. Many lower class citizens weren’t hired for the good jobs. Katie’s mom has a job that’s located in the “dirty” part of the factory. I can’t imagine what that must have been like, working for 12-14 hours and then going home for 2-3 hours only to come back and do the same thing over again.
I really liked the relationship between Katie and everyone in the story. She is a very head-strong opinionated character, and because she’s narrating, we get to see her deepest inner thoughts of all of her relatives. We also get to see Katie as she is forced to grow up, though she desperately clings to her childhood, mostly through her younger brother, Samson, whose innocence and naivety she tries to preserve at all costs.
I gave KIRA-KIRA by Cynthia Kadohata 5 out of 5 stars.