Tallgrass [NOOK Book]

Overview


An essential American novel from Sandra Dallas, an unparalleled writer of our history, and our deepest emotions...

During World War II, a family finds life turned upside down when the government opens a Japanese internment camp in their small Colorado town. After a young girl is murdered, all eyes (and suspicions) turn to the newcomers, the interlopers, the strangers.
This is Tallgrass as Rennie Stroud has ...
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Tallgrass

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Overview


An essential American novel from Sandra Dallas, an unparalleled writer of our history, and our deepest emotions...

During World War II, a family finds life turned upside down when the government opens a Japanese internment camp in their small Colorado town. After a young girl is murdered, all eyes (and suspicions) turn to the newcomers, the interlopers, the strangers.
This is Tallgrass as Rennie Stroud has never seen it before. She has just turned thirteen and, until this time, life has pretty much been what her father told her it should be: predictable and fair. But now the winds of change are coming and, with them, a shift in her perspective. And Rennie will discover secrets that can destroy even the most sacred things.
Part thriller, part historical novel, Tallgrass is a riveting exploration of the darkest--and best--parts of the human heart.
 

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

An ugly murder is central to this compelling historical, but the focus is on one appealing family, the Strouds, in the backwater town of Ellis, Colo. Soon after Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government rounded up all the Japanese residents of the West Coast and shipped them off to "internment camps" for the duration of the war. One of the camps is Tallgrass, based on an actual Colorado camp, as Dallas (The Chili Queen) explains in her acknowledgments. The major discomforts and petty indignities these (mostly) American citizens had to endure are viewed through the clear eyes of a young girl who lives on a nearby farm, Rennie Stroud. Rennie's obvious love of family slowly extends itself to the Japanese house and field helpers the Strouds receive permission to hire. The final surprise is the who and why of the murder itself. Dallas's terrific characters, unerring ear for regional dialects and ability to evoke the sights and sounds of the 1940s make this a special treat. Author tour. (Apr.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal
Rennie Stroud looks back to 1942, when she was 13, to tell a powerful coming-of-age story. That year, the U.S. government opened a Japanese internment camp outside Ellis, CO, less than a mile from where Rennie and her family farmed sugar beets. Rennie observes the prejudice of some of the townspeople as well as her parents' strong moral code and their entanglement in the emotions of the time. Her father, Loyal, not only shows open support for the Japanese, whom he views as Americans, but offers to hire them to work on the farm. When a young girl is murdered, suspicion naturally turns to the camp, and the town is divided by fear. Dallas's strong, provocative novel is a moving examination of prejudice and fear that addresses issues of community discord, abuse, and rape. Her phrasing and language bring the 1940s to life, and she has created characters that will linger with the reader. As in her previous work, The Persian Pickle Club, Dallas emphasizes the need for women to form strong networks in order to survive emotionally. Highly recommended for book clubs and public libraries.
—Lesa M. Holstine
School Library Journal

Adult/High School -Dallas has made a major contribution to a growing body of literature about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Based on the one camp in Colorado (named Amache, and renamed Tallgrass by the author), the story focuses on the impact it had on the local farmers and townspeople. It is told from the viewpoint of Rennie Stroud, 13, and poignantly portrays the emotional turmoil of both the internees and local residents. Suspicion, fear, anger, hatred, love, tenderness, pride, regret: Rennie adapts and readapts to all of these as her predictable life vanishes behind the reality of war, murder, and injustice. After a young local girl is killed, most of the town looks in one direction for the murderer. Rennie, blessed with wise and just parents, manages to rise above the prevailing rush to judgment. Part mystery, part historical fiction, part coming-of-age story, Tallgrass has all the elements of a tale well told: complex characters, intriguing plot, atmospheric detail, pathos, humor, and memorable turns of phrase. But most of all, the book offers a fresh look at a theme that can never be ignored: the interplay of good and evil within society and within people.-Robert Saunderson, Berkeley Public Library, CA

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A Colorado beet farmer and his family are sorely tried by events of WWII. When the U.S. government establishes a Japanese-American relocation camp in Ellis, Colo., in 1942, Loyal Stroud takes a view apart from most other townsfolk. Having "the enemy in their midst" riles the locals, but Loyal believes the whole thing is plain wrong. Why not round up all the German-Americans, too, while they're at it? Aside from civic issues, Loyal has to figure out how to harvest his beets, what with Buddy, his son, enlisted, along with his farm hands. Against prevailing sentiment, Loyal hires three young men from the camp. And although Rennie, 14, the last child home, worries about her father's decision, she and her mother, Mary, come to love the boys, who are from California farm country. And when Mary's heart ailment finally gets bad enough for her to take the rest cure the doctor advised, the Strouds hire Daisy, the sister of one of the boys. Daisy works hard and speaks in a Hollywood tabloid lingo that charms the whole family. Their domestic harmony is rocked by news that Buddy is missing in action and-shockingly-that Rennie's school friend Sally is found raped and murdered. Everyone except the Strouds and the sheriff believes "the Japs" did it, and the tension in town builds to the point of near-anarchy, when the local bigots get liquored up and try to take the law into their own hands. Throughout all this drama, as in most of Dallas's work (Alice's Tulips, 2000, etc.), a community of quilters, known here as the Jolly Stitchers, come and go, bringing cakes, covered casseroles and gossip to the sick and grieving. The parallels of a country at war then and now give this story a layer of poignancy, butotherwise, as is obvious from the start, the good guys win and the bad guys lose, and Buddy comes marching home. A well-spun but familiar tale.
From the Publisher
Advance Praise for Tallgrass:

"A compelling and genuinely moving novel."-Jennifer Chiaverini, author of Circle of Quilters

"Sandra Dallas is a true American Voice."—Gail Tsukiyama, author of Dreaming Water

"Tallgrass is a must read for every American."—Former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder, President and CEO of the Association of American Publishers (AAP)

"A profoundly moving story."—Bill Hosokawa, author of Nisei

"The sweep of the Great Plains, the tensions of World War II that rift a small community and the remarkable cast of characters are all heartbreakingly real."-Margaret Coel, author of The Drowning Man

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429917179
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 4/3/2007
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 67,564
  • File size: 277 KB

Meet the Author

Sandra Dallas

Award-winning author Sandra Dallas was dubbed “a quintessential American voice” by Jane Smiley, in Vogue Magazine. She is the author of The Bride’s House, Whiter Than Snow, and Prayers for Sale, among others. Her novels have been translated into a dozen languages and optioned for films. She is the recipient of the Women Writing the West Willa Award and the two-time winner of the Western Writers of America Spur Award. For 25 years, Dallas worked as a reporter covering the Rocky Mountain region for Business Week, and started writing fiction in 1990. She lives with her husband in Denver, Colorado.
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Read an Excerpt


Chapter One The summer I was thirteen, the Japanese came to Ellis. Not Ellis, exactly, but to the old Tallgrass Ranch, which the government had turned into a relocation camp. Tallgrass was a mile and a half from Ellis, less than a mile past our farmhouse. It was one of the camps the government was building then to house the Japanese. In early 1942, the Japanese on the West Coast had been rounded up and incarcerated in places such as the Santa Anita racetrack. Those destined for Colorado waited there until streets had been bladed into the yucca and sagebrush at Tallgrass, guard towers and barracks thrown up, and the camp fenced off with bobwire. Then they were put on a train and sent a thousand miles to Ellis. I remember the crowd of townspeople at the depot the day the first Japanese arrived. The arrival date was supposed to be a secret, but we knew the evacuees were coming, because the government had alerted the stationmaster and hired bus drivers, and guards with guns patrolled the station platform. I'd sneaked away from my parents and gone to the depot, too, because I'd never seen any Japanese. I expected them to look like the cartoons of Hirohito in the newspaper, with slanted eyes and buckteeth and skin like rancid butter. All these years later, I recall I was disappointed that they didn't appear to be a "yellow peril" at all. They were so ordinary. That is what I remember most about them. The Japanese gripped the handrails as they got off the train because the steps were steep and their legs were short, and they frowned and blinked into the white-hot sun. They had made the trip with the shades in the coaches pulled down, and the glare of the prairie hurt their eyes. Most of the evacuees on that first train were men, dressed in suits, rumpled now after the long ride, ties that were loosened, and straw hats. Some had on felt hats, although it was August.The few women wore tailored skirts and blouses and summer dresses with shoulder pads, coats over their arms. They pulled scarves from their pocketbooks and tied them around their heads to keep the hot wind from blowing dust into their hair. Some of the women had on wedgies or open-toed spectator pumps and silk or rayon stockings. Each evacuee carried a single suitcase, because that was all they had been allowed to bring with them. The adults stood quietly in little groups, whispering, waiting to be told what to do. I expected one of the guards to take charge, to steer the people to the school buses lined up along the platform or tell them to go inside where it was cooler. But no one did, so they waited, confused. I wanted to point the evacuees to the drinking fountain and the bathrooms in the depot. They must have needed them. But I didn't dare speak up. Some of the men took out packages of Camels and Chesterfields and Lucky Strikes and lighted cigarettes. None of them chewed tobacco, and none of the women smoked. Several children, cooped up for days, seemed glad to be out in the open, and they squatted down to examine the tracks or ran around, jerky as Mexican jumping beans. A little boy smiled at me, but I turned away, embarrassed to make a connection with him. I wondered if the kids were supposed to be our enemies, too. Then the mothers called to them, and the children joined their parents, fidgeting as they looked at us shyly. Only the children took notice of the group of townspeople on the platform staring at them, many hostile, all of us curious. A man who stepped down from the last car removed his hat, an expensive one that did not have sweat stains like the hats the farmers wore. He smoothed his hair, which appeared to have been slicked back with Vitalis or some other hair oil, because every strand was in place, despite the wind. Holding the hat in his hand, he rubbed his wrist across his forehead. Shading his eyes, he squinted at the prairie grass that glinted like brass in the sun and asked the man beside him, "Where are we?" The second man shrugged, and I suddenly felt sorry for the Japanese. What if the government had taken over our farm and sent us far away on the train, and nobody would tell us our destination? But we weren't Japanese. We were Americans. "Ellis. You're at Ellis, Colorado," a woman near me called out. Her husband shushed her. "Don't tell those people where they're at. Don't you know nothing?" He rubbed his big face with a hand that the sun had turned as brown as a walnut. The man had shaved before coming to town. You could tell by the tiny clots of dried blood where he had nicked himself and the clumps of whiskers the razor had missed. They stuck up in the folds of his skin like willow shoots in a gully. The Japanese man looked into the crowd, searching for the woman who'd spoken. She kept still, however, so he put his hat back on, tightened his tie, and buttoned his suit jacket as he leaned down to whisper something to a girl about my age. I admired her saddle shoes, thinking she must be rich, because saddle shoes cost more than the plain brown oxfords Mom bought me. I wondered how long her shoes would stay white in the dirt of Tallgrass. It wasn't likely that she'd put shoe polish into her small suitcase. The girl shook back her hair, which was long and black and glossy. I had never seen such hair. It was as if coal had been spun into long threads. She unfolded a scarf splashed with pink flowers and put it around her head, tying it at the back of her neck, under her hair. "Silk. Real silk," a woman near me muttered, but I could not tell if she was jealous or just stating a fact. A man beside her observed, "I thought they'd have buckteeth. They don't have buckteeth." "You got buckteeth enough for all of 'em," called one of the boys at the back of the crowd. The man turned around and searched the faces, but he couldn't identify the kid who'd spoken. I could. He was Beaner Jack. I knew because Danny Spano stopped chugging his Grapette long enough to slap Beaner on the back and say, "Good one." Beaner and Danny were always together, except for the time when Danny was in the army. He'd been in an accident at Camp Carson, near Colorado Springs, and hurt his foot, and the army didn't want him anymore, so he'd been mustered out. Now he was back in Ellis. Both Danny and Beaner were eighteen, the age of my sister, Marthalice, who had gone to Denver to work in an arms plant after she graduated in May. I didn't know whether she'd done it because she was patriotic or because she was blue after her favorite boyfriend, Hank Gantz, quit school to join the navy. My brother, Buddy, who was twenty-one, had left college to enlist in the army the week after Pearl Harbor. "Haw haw," said Marlys, one of the high school girls who were standing beside the boys. She smiled at Danny, because he was tall and had curly black hair like a movie star. Beaner, on the other hand, was squat, with hair as thin as corn silk. He'd be bald one day, like the rest of the Jacks. And mean, too. I didn't understand how people could be as mean as the Jacks. It was just their nature, I guess. They had meanness in their bones. I couldn't imagine my telling a grown-up that he had buckteeth, but I wasn't surprised that Beaner did. The bucktoothed man glared at Marlys. "Beaner's a bushel of cow pucky," whispered Betty Joyce Snow, who was standing on the platform next to me, and we both giggled. With Marthalice gone, I was especially glad that Betty Joyce was my best friend. We told each other everything. Betty Joyce and I got along as squarely as anybody. She'd sneaked away from her father's hardware store to come to the station, and I knew she'd have the dickens to pay if her dad found out. Then Lum Smith observed, "I don't see nothing wrong with them. They don't even hardly look like Japs, some of 'em anyway." He was a small, henpecked man with no chin, like Andy Gump in the comic strips. His wife, Bird, frowned at him. Bird Smith's hair was in pin curls, covered by a red bandanna that was tied at the top of her head. The ends of the scarf stuck up like rabbit ears. Stout, with legs the size of Yule logs, she didn't look much like her name. She didn't sound like it, either. Mrs. Smith was one of the dozen members of Mom's quilting group, the Jolly Stitchers, which meant they considered themselves friends, but Mom didn't seem to care much for her. I was glad that at thirteen, I didn't have to be friends with anybody. "That's why they're so dangerous," Mr. Rubey said. "You'd not hardly think they was the enemy. But it's a fact. Some of them have a shortwave with a direct line to Tojo." He jerked back his head for emphasis, sticking out his chest, which made his overalls pull up over his big hams. "Shortwave radios don't send signals that far," his son Edgar told him. "Was anybody asking you, mister?" "No, sir." Edgar was the smartest boy in my grade, but he was a twerp. Once, I said New York City was the capital of New York State, and Edgar asked if I wanted to bet on it. I was so sure I was right that I bet a quarter. But I was wrong, and Edgar lorded it over me, saying only a dummy would bet against him. He'd known all along that the capital was Albany, because he'd visited his aunt and uncle there. That wasn't fair, and I didn't have a quarter. But I wasn't a welsher, so I paid off Edgar at five cents a week. Then he made me pay him three cents' interest. The guards moved among the evacuees then, pointing to school buses that Ellis folks still call "the yellow dogs." The Japanese picked up their suitcases, the women moving about like hens as they gathered their children and scurried toward the open doors. "They ride on a machine, while I ride my horse to town," said Olney Larsoo, who ran the filling station. His face was raw, as if it had been scoured by sand, like paint on a frame house in a storm. "I'm a World War One vet, and they're a bunch of damn foreigners." He leaned over the edge of the platform and spit out his wad. "Aw, they can't help being born that way," someone said. "I believe the government ought to make them go back to where they come from," Frank Martin said, loudly enough for one of the Japanese men boarding the bus to hear. The evacuee turned around, and Mr. Martin leaned forward and repeated louder, "Ought to make them go back where they come from." A man made his way through the crowd then and said just loudly enough for all of us to hear, "Those folks came from California. Where at is it you're from, Frank?" People laughed because Mr. Martin had moved to Ellis from Italy after the Great War, and he ate spaghetti and sold dago red to the high school boys for fifty cents a jar. His real name was Martinelli, and some people said that meant jackass in Italian. Mr. Martin sent a reproachful look at the man who'd spoken. I couldn't see him, but I recognized the voice. It belonged to my father, and he came up beside me and took my arm. "We've been looking for you, Squirt. We thought you were with Granny. I reckon there's chores to do." He glanced over at Betty Joyce, who'd begun studying the splintery boards of the platform, but he didn't say anything to her. If Betty Joyce's father thought I should go home, he'd tell me in a second, but Dad wouldn't discipline another man's child. "I wanted to see the Japs," I said, my face red. I knew Dad was disappointed that I'd come to the station. He'd said on the way into town that Ellis folks should have the decency to leave the evacuees alone. He hadn't exactly told me I couldn't go to the depot, but that wouldn't be much of a defense if Dad decided to scold me. He'd accuse me of fuzzy-headed logic, and he might feel he had to start telling me what to do again, as if I were still a little kid. Since Buddy and Marthalice had gone away, Dad had trusted me to make more of my own decisions. But at least he wouldn't smack me the way Betty Joyce's father smacked her. "I believe they are called Japanese." "Yes, sir." "These here are Japs, Loyal. Can't you see that?" Mr. Rubey asked my father, scratching his stomach through his overalls. "All I see are some unlucky Americans. By Dan, I dislike the enemy as much as the next fellow, but I don't see any enemy here," he said as Mr. Rubey turned his hands into fists. People stepped back a little. Dad wasn't a big man, just average in height and size, and his dark hair had begun to creep back on his forehead. He didn't look like a fighting man, but folks around Ellis knew enough not to take him on. Once when I was in third grade, Ralph Muggins complained to the teacher, Mr. Gross, that someone had stolen a boiled egg from his lunch bucket. Mr. Gross told us all to open our lunch pails. I had a giant boiled egg in mine, and the teacher ordered me to admit I'd stolen it and apologize to Ralph. When I wouldn't do it, Mr. Gross made me stand in the dark cloakroom. At first, I wasn't scared, just humiliated, knowing that the drone in the room meant my classmates were talking about me, accusing me of being a thief. When the bell rang, dismissing classes, and the room grew quiet, however, I wondered if I'd have to stay there all night. The closet was stuffy, and the closeness made me sleepy, but I was afraid to sit down, for fear of rats. Dad was in town that afternoon and heard the bell and decided to give me a ride home. He ran into Mr. Gross as he was leaving the school. "Oops, I put Rennie in the cloakroom to punish her for stealing, and I forgot about her," Mr. Gross told Dad, giving an apologetic shrug. "Good thing you came along, Mr. Stroud. I sure wouldn't like to have to come back all this way to let her out." Dad rushed to the classroom, grabbed me, and carried me outside. Then he slugged Mr. Gross so hard that the teacher fell to the dirt, breaking his glasses. Dad would have killed him, but Mr. Gross refused to stand up, and Dad wouldn't hit a man who was down. Although he apologized to me in class the next day, Mr. Gross didn't come back the following year, and folks said he should have known all along that Mom had put the boiled egg in my lunch that morning: Mom's eggs were the biggest in Bondurant County, and the Muggins raised guinea hens. I never liked closed, dark spaces after that. And people were careful not to cross my father. Dad stared until Mr. Rubey put his hands into his pockets; then Dad said, "Good day to you, sir." He turned and, pulling me behind him, went back through the crowd, people parting to let us through. I looked over my shoulder to tell Betty Joyce good-bye, but she was watching the yellow dogs lumber onto the washboard Tallgrass Road. The yellow dogs sent up plumes of dust, which settled over the people at the depot. Men took out bandannas to wipe their faces, which were grimy with dust and sweat. A woman pulled her long apron up over her head. I'd seen pictures of California vineyards and orange groves, and I thought how bewildered the Japanese would be when they saw their new home carved out of the treeless prairie. Some would live there for three years, until V-J day.As Dad and I jumped off the platform next to the depot, a man with a pencil and a pad of paper got up from the running board of a car where he had been sitting, watching, and came over to us. "Seems like folks aren't too happy about the Japs being here," he said. Dad stared at the man until he explained who he was. "Jeff Cheever, Denver Post. I'm doing a story on the Tallgrass Internment Camp. Like I say, it seems that you wheat farmers aren't too happy it's here." Dad didn't answer at first. Instead, he pulled out the makings, sprinkled tobacco onto a cigarette paper, rolled it up, and licked it shut. The reporter took out a lighter, but before he could flick it, Dad struck a kitchen match on his overalls and lighted the cigarette, which was twisted at the ends and bent a little in the middle. Dad glanced over at a second man, who was fitting a flashbulb into a big square camera. "Sugar beets. This is sugar beet country. You better get that right, son."The reporter shrugged. "So how do you feel about the Japs?" Dad inhaled and blew smoke out of his mouth. "There's some would like to talk to you about it. I'm not amongst them. Good day to you." Dad touched his straw hat to the man and started off. "Hey," called the reporter, "don't you want to see your name in print?" Dad stopped, and I hoped he'd changed his mind. Getting our name in the paper would be exciting. People would read what Dad had said and remark on it. Kids would say, "Hey, I read about your dad in the Post." I'd cut out the story and paste it in my scrapbook and get extra copies to send to Buddy and Marthalice.But Dad hadn't changed his mind. "Are you hard of hearing, young man?" he asked. Before the reporter could reply, Mr. Smith interrupted. "Well, I'm not so particular. I've got a piece to say, if you want to listen. I think they ought to 've shipped them to Japan, and the governor with them. If the governor had ran for office right now, he wouldn't get my vote or anybody else's." When the government announced it was evacuating the Japanese from the West Coast, most states made it plain they didn't want them, but Colorado governor Ralph Carr said it was all right to send them to Colorado. He was never elected to office again. The reporter wrote all that down, asking, "And what was your name?""Lum Smith. That's Lum for Columbus, father of our country," Mr. Smith said. He grinned while the photographer took his picture. I wondered if Christopher Columbus was the same father of our country as the first president of the United States, Mr. George Washington. Now that the buses were gone, people crowded around the reporter, probably hoping to get their names into the paper, too. Dad and I started toward our wagon. "You should have talked to him, Loyal. You could have told him there's some of us here that don't hate the Japanese. That reporter's going to write us up like we're a bunch of rednecks," said Redhead Joe Lee, who was standing at the edge of the crowd. He ran one of the two drugstores in Ellis, the one where we traded, because Mom didn't like the way Mr. Elliot, the owner of the other, patted her on the fanny once when she went in to buy a bottle of Mercurochrome. That was okay with me, because I didn't like Mr. Elliot's son, Pete, who was a friend of Beaner and Danny. The Lee Drug had perfume and dusting powder on the counters and a marble soda fountain and tables with wire legs and wire chairs. Someday, I'd have a boyfriend who would take me there, and I could sit with one leg under me, the way Marthalice did, and lean my elbows on the table while I drank a Coca-Cola through a straw and flirted. Maybe he'd buy me a blue bottle of Evening in Paris cologne for my birthday. Sure, I thought, right after I win first place on "Major Bowes' Original Amateur Hour." "You're the fellow that can give it to him straight," said Mr. Lee, who was in shirtsleeves and had on a vest that was buttoned wrong, maybe because he'd been in a hurry to take off his white coat and get to the depot. He was almost as handsome as Dad, and Mom called him "Ellis's most eligible bachelor." That didn't mean much, however, because most of the other bachelors were hired men.Dad smoked his cigarette down to his fingers, then dropped it in the dirt and ground it out with his foot. "I'm straight as a string, all right, Red. I sure am good-looking, too." Dad paused. "Isn't that right, Mother?" Mom had come up behind me, and I turned and saw her look Dad up and down before she replied. "You got that string part right." "Oh, she thinks I'm good-looking as a barber. She can't hardly keep her hands off me," Dad told Mr. Lee, grinning at Mom so openly that she shook her head and looked away. Mom was tall, and instead of being nicely plump like she used to be, she'd lost weight since Buddy had joined up. Her face had become gaunt, and she seemed tired all the time. There was gray in her blond hair, too. But Dad still told her she was the prettiest thing since strawberry ice cream, and he believed it. I suppose I knew that there was something special about my parents, although I never thought much about it. They never criticized each other like the Smiths, never argued the way Betty Joyce's parents did. They respected each other--and me, too--and I was still hoping they wouldn't say I'd let them down by coming to the station to watch the Japanese. There wasn't anything as hard to take as my folks' disappointment; now that my brother and sister were gone, I had to bear all their disappointment. "Oh, go on. Don't talk so, Loyal," Mom said. "Red here thinks I should say something to that reporter over there, tell him we don't all hate the Japanese. What do you think?" "I think you ought not to stir up trouble. Who knows what the Jolly Stitchers would say to that?" Then she told us to come along because Granny was waiting and might wander off. "And how is the old lady?" Mr. Lee asked, scratching at his head. He had only a fringe of hair, and his freckled bald head was always peeling, even in the winter."Granny forgets. And she frets about that. But then she forgets she forgets." Dad sighed. "There's things I'd like to forget right about now, so I guess she isn't in such a bad way." My grandmother had forgotten most of what had happened in the past forty years. I loved Granny, who was sweet and smelled like cinnamon and lavender powder, and sometimes wandered into my room and slept with me. That was because when my sister went off to Denver, Mom moved me out of the big bedroom we'd shared and into Granny's room, giving Granny the front bedroom. It was sunny, and Granny could sit by the window, piecing quilt tops. "I'm making this one for Mattie," she'd told me last week. Mattie was her sister, who'd lived in Mingo and died there in the early part of the century. Sometimes Granny forgot she had moved into the front bedroom, and then she'd go into her old room, curling up like a kitten in the bed beside me and keeping me warm. From time to time, she would snap out of her dreamy world and recall something that had happened a long time ago--or as little as a month or two ago. "I didn't make Buddy a quilt to take off to war, because soldier boys now have good warm blankets. Remember, Buddy wrote that in his letter," she'd said one night at dinner. Dad said good-bye to Mr. Lee, and as we walked away, Dad asked Mom if she'd bought the yellow material she'd had her eye on. "I can put that quarter to better use," she told him. Dad said he didn't guess we'd lose the farm for two bits. Besides, with the war, crops were going sky-high, and we'd be rolling in money. "Might be we could sell a little something to the Tallgrass Camp. They're going to need eggs.""Lord, Loyal, I'd hate to make money off the Japanese. I don't know what's people to think if we did that." "Somebody has to provide them with eggs, and if we do it, those folks'll eat choice. It wouldn't surprise me if the government's giving them the powdered stuff," Dad told her. "Squirt and me will wait in the wagon with Granny whilst you buy your cloth." "Perhaps I will, then. Granny favors yellow." Mom didn't really believe the Depression was over, and it pained her to spend money on herself, so she had to be convinced that it was going for someone else. "You might pick up a nickel's worth of licorice, too," Dad said. He and I were crazy about licorice, although nobody else in the family liked it. Mom went off to the dry goods--she walked slower now than she used to--while Dad and I headed toward the wagon. We had a truck, but we drove the wagon when we could to save on gasoline and tires. We were so close to town that we might have walked if it hadn't been for Granny. "How do you feel about the Japanese, Squirt?" Dad asked as we reached the wagon, where Granny sat with her piecing. One good thing about being the only kid left at home was that Dad asked my opinion more often. He listened, too.I thought hard how to answer him, because I wanted to say something that Dad would be proud of, that he would repeat at the feed store. He'd say, "You know, my daughter says . . ." But the truth was, I didn't know how I felt. The Japanese at the depot didn't seem like alien enemies working for the downfall of America, but how would I know? The government wouldn't have sent them to Tallgrass if it hadn't believed they were dangerous. That made me uneasy, and I wished the camp were someplace else. "Somebody at the depot said they were spies and that we ought to lock them up," I said. "If you locked up people for minding other folks' business, the jail would be full." Dad gave me a sly glance. "They'd have a cell just for your mom's quilt circle."I thought some more, and then I said slowly, "I think the Japanese are bringing the war home to Ellis." Dad nodded, looking off down the Tallgrass Road. The dust had settled, and there was no sign of the evacuees or the yellow dogs. Maybe he did repeat what I said at the feed store. He told Mom, and years later, he reminded me of it. Tallgrass did indeed bring the war to us, brought it more than the shortages or rationing or the news on the radio. It made the war as close to us as what happened to Buddy. I grew up during World War II. When the war started, I was a little girl. By the time it ended, I'd become a young woman who had seen much of sorrow and sadness. Tallgrass became our own personal war. Copyright © 2007 by Sandra Dallas. All rights reserved.
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Reading Group Guide

An essential American novel from Sandra Dallas, an unparalleled writer of our history, and our deepest emotions...

During World War II, a family finds life turned upside down when the government opens a Japanese internment camp in their small Colorado town. After a young girl is murdered, all eyes (and suspicions) turn to the newcomers, the interlopers, the strangers.

This is Tallgrass as Rennie Stroud has never seen it before. She has just turned thirteen and, until this time, life has pretty much been what her father told her it should be: predictable and fair. But now the winds of change are coming and, with them, a shift in her perspective. And Rennie will discover secrets that can destroy even the most sacred things.

Part thriller, part historical novel, Tallgrass is a riveting exploration of the darkest—and best—parts of the human heart.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 79 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(36)

4 Star

(19)

3 Star

(15)

2 Star

(5)

1 Star

(4)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 79 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 2, 2010

    Don't buy this book on your Nook

    The Nook version of this book is full of typos and errors that are clearly related to a digitizing of the content. Examples: "looking" spelled as "lxx)ing", most captial "I"s displayed as the number 1. And on every page, the title of the book is spelled, "TELLGRASS".

    Barnes and Noble customer service should be ashamed of themselves for not providing a discount due to this poor quality.

    This is all on top of this book being poorly written, repetative, unoriginal, depressing, and uninteresting.

    11 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 30, 2012

    Highly Recommended

    Sandra Dallas can really tell a story! She creates characters that you care about, that you feel like you know. She weaves amazing stories, and I find that I don't want her books to end. I can hardly put her books down once I start reading them. This story of Japanese Americans interred in a camp in middle America is a great read, an interesting and fascinating look at prejudice and fear in a small town, and how God can redeem us in spite of ourselves. I can't wait to read other Sandra Dallas books.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2007

    A Story that Stays With You

    I loved this book. At this time of turmoil in our country, I want nothing more than to go back to the times when I could take the ferry across the bay from my home on the New Jersey shore to New York City and not think about the possibility of a terrorist attack. I am also appalled that innocent Americans, some of whom were not even of Arab descent, but had dark skin, were the targets of the outrage of some people in my town after 9/11. Yet I admit that I was afraid too. The reactions of the small town characters to the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII in Tallgrass reminds us that fear can bring out the worst in us. I love the way Dallas balanced the feelings of all the characters. She did a wonderful job of showing all sides of the issue without preaching or condemning. Having a 13 year old tell the story was a great idea. Readers could easily connect with Rennie and her questioning the fairness of all that happened. Although I loved her other books too, I think this one is my favorite.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2013

    Love Sandra Dallas! Her characters and story line keep me capti

    Love Sandra Dallas! Her characters and story line keep me captivated that I have trouble finding a spot to put the book down.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2012

    Eye Opening

    I loved this book and was amazed to learn about the subject. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about the complexities of growing up during a very trying time for America. The characters in this book make you want a sequel.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2011

    So Far, A Good Book

    We just started reading TallGrass at school. I think it is a really good book but i don't think I am going to buy it on my NOOK... it seems like a waste of money because I already have the book for free now. But if you are someone who doesn't have the book, you should get it and read it! :)

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 24, 2009

    To Copy A Mockingbird

    I'm about three quarters of the way through and Tallgrass has a few too many similarities to a well known classic. TKAM has a mean old morphine addict named Mrs. Dubose. Tallgrass has its own addict, Mr. Snow. Scout Finch overhears her father talking about adult subjects with her Uncle just like Rennie eavesdrops on her mother gossiping with her aunt. Both girls realize later that their parents knew they were listening in and the adults wanted them to hear what they had to say. Scout follows Atticus to the town jail only to find him in trouble with a lynch mob which she disperses by asking Mr. Cunningham about his own son Walter. Rennie's mother dismisses the drunken townsmen in Tallgrass by asking about their own families as well when they similarly show up to the prison camp looking for trouble. In addition, both plots center on blaming a scapegoat for rape. I'm waiting for Boo Radley and the mad dog to make their appearance next.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2008

    a coming of age story

    This wonderful book of fiction is based on Amanche, a Japanese internment camp in Colorado during WWII.When the story opens, we see many of the curious townspeople waiting for the train to pull into the station in Ellis, Colorado. The train is filled with Japanese Americans re located from CA. Here we meet our narrator,13 year old Rennie Stroud and her parents, Loyal and Mary Stroud. During this coming of age story, we see how Rennie finds out that people¿s feelings can be similar to hers no matter what their race is. What ensues is a portrait of a town and their perceived fears of the Japanese and how they will deal with Tallgrass, the internment camp, so close to the farms. When an awful murder is committed nearby, some of the local families assume someone from the internment camp committed this horrific crime. When 3 youngs boys from the camp are harassed, Rennie says what upset her most was the meanness toward the 3 boys. She says 'it wasn¿t the Japanese who frightened her most, it was us. I didn¿t understand what made somebody from Ellis hurt little kids just because they were Japanese. I don¿t think right and wrong change just because we are at war.¿ When Rennie¿s father needs help on the farm, he employs several boys from the camp to work in the sugarbeet fields. When Mary becomes ill, Loyal also hires Daisy, the sister of one of the Japanese farm workers. Daisy is quite the character and becomes much beloved by the Stroud family . Loyal becomes central to the story , a well fleshed out 3 dimensional character. You can almost feel his strength emanate right off the page. He possesses an all pervading sense of fairness and wisdom. The same goes for Rennie¿s mother, Mary. She has a quiet strength that shows clearly through her love of family. She is one of the first to help out when others are in need. Ms. Dallas writes with a wonderfully clear simplicity and with such heart, the reader feels he or she is right there with the family. The descriptions of the area give the reader a real sense of familiarity with the landscape, the era and the feeling of the times. There are a lot of subplots involving more of the local families and the reader is left with a good feeling about the community and how the women pull together in times of hardship, and painful losses. All of the characters were well drawn, the plot was tightly woven and flows right off the page. This is a highly recommended book if you like historical fiction and stories of family and community interaction. A little bit of mystery thrown in for good measure with a very credible denouement. An extremely enjoyable and highly recommended read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2014

    Excellent story and learned a little about our country's history

    Excellent story and learned a little about our country's history.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2014

    Slow Moving

    I have read other books by the author and loved them. This book was very slow moving. The topic of the discrimation against Japaneese Americans was very good. The writing at times was very simplistic and contrived. This would be a good book for middle school students. The topic of rape might not be apprpriate.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2013

    Ag A great book

    Kept me wanting more

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2013

    Wats it about

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2012

    really good book on a subject we know little about

    Loved the character development and the story. Well thought out and an easy read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2012

    Bad nook version.

    THE NOOK VERSION OF THIS BOOK WAS TERRIBLE!!!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2012

    It's Okay

    Not the best book I've ever read, but interesting. MPo

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2011

    Great Book - Lots of typos on the nook

    This book is a good read - however on the nook version there were so many typos it was ridiculous. I don't think it was proof read at all.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2011

    Tallgrass is a great book

    This book is wonderfully written taking the reader back in time and bringing the emotions of WWII to life. I highly recommend it.

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  • Posted May 10, 2011

    Best book ever

    I loved this book me and my friends loved this. It was very mature.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2011

    Just okay

    Our bookclub members were divided on this one. It had a lot of potential. Not too many books talk about internment camps, This one had way too many other things going on - rape, spousal abuse, drug addiction, teenage pregnancy, coping with alzheimers, murder, racism, segragation, etc, etc. If the focus was narrowed it could have been a great book. The E-book version had MANY TYPOS. It was really distracting. I felt ripped off that I paid for a bad version when my friends had library books with no typos.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Wonderful Read!

    You will think about the characters and events in this book even after finishing reading. I didn't want to put the book down. She is a fabulous author!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 79 Customer Reviews

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