This is an archive of the former website of the Maoist Internationalist Movement, which was run by the now defunct Maoist Internationalist Party - Amerika. The MIM now consists of many independent cells, many of which have their own indendendent organs both online and off. MIM(Prisons) serves these documents as a service to and reference for the anti-imperialist movement worldwide.
Snow Falling on Cedars
by David Guterson
New York: Vintage Books
460 pp.
reviewed by MC45

David Guterson's first novel is a richly researched and narrated story of the hypocrisies of u.s. imperialism, and the mechanisms that bind Amerikans and the rest of the population within u.s. borders to this international system of oppression. Snow Falling on Cedars is the life story of the 20th Century for a small island in Puget Sound, off the coast of Washington. It runs through the immigration of Japanese to the Pacific united states; World War Two, in which the Amerikan military (including Japanese-descended volunteers and draftees) fought against Japan and the U.$. government imprisoned its Japanese-descended population; and the 20 years following the War, in which young white people who had Japanese friends grew into middle-aged white people who hated the Japanese and their descendents.

Guterson tells this story through a murder trial. A Japanese-descended man is accused of killing a white man with whom he had been friendly before he was interned in Manzanar, which was a real life concentration camp in California. The dead white man's father was lucky enough to be the only white liberal enough to make a business deal with a Japanese prior to World War Two. By virtue of his liberalism, the dead white man's father had made an arrangement to help the Japanese-desended man's father acquire land for a strawberry farm. (Japanese were barred from owning land and so were dependent on deals with friendly whites if they wanted a piece of the amerikan dream.) The Japanese-descended man was then stripped of his rightful assumption of the land when he was interned just before his eighteenth birthday. Jealousy and anger over this injustice are then proffered as the motives for murder.

Snow Falling on Cedars is the rare honest assessment of the ways individual whites benefit from their government's tactics of imperialism and national oppression. This honesty makes the novel a compelling read. Guterson does not apologize for his characters' chauvinism. He writes plainly about how white people will turn the end of a friendship with a non-white person into an excuse to hate all other people who are not white. He details the rationalizations white soldiers use to turn their battlefield experiences against a nation of people into lifelong bitterness and enmity toward all others of that nation. This is the sort of fiction that demonstrates how art can serve politics and still be quite entertaining and creative.

Buy This Book

Back to bookstore Home page