Skip to content

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

December 4, 2008

According to Wikipedia, Snow Falling on Cedars was written by a teacher, taking 10 years to complete. The success of this book should give hope everywhere to teachers who want to be writers. But not just because it was a successful—it is also a good read.

David Guterson’s novel was published in 1994, and became a huge hit, spawning a film version in 1999. The front cover gives away its superstar status, with a giant “The Award-Winning #1 Bestseller” badge.

“Oh great,” I said to myself after examining the book. I came across this novel when Matt and Anna were simplifying their life and giving away books. I had heard of it, so I took it. But I had it for about almost a year before I read it. That “#1 Bestseller” just turns me away. I don’t want people to think I read only bestsellers! I don’t want want anyone to assume I’m a DaVinci Code fan! (Disclosure: I haven’t read that novel, and I don’t want to. Don’t make me).

Anyway… this novel was a quick read, even though it’s 460 pages long. Once I was into it, I didn’t want to stop reading! The novel focuses on a murder trial in the ’50s, when there was a lot of anti-Japanese racism resulting from WWII. Set on a Washington state island, the story revolves on the trial of Katsuo, who is accused of killing Carl over wanted strawberry farmland. It is easy for the citizens to get caught up in the racism, because they recall all of the Japanese citizens being interned in 1942, and many are war veterans. The internment of Japanese-Americans was a disgraceful action; this novel is a good reminder to us to not forget it. I don’t think I heard about citizens being interned until I was in high school—which is pretty outrageous. Remember, kids, we study history lest we repeat it!

Which brings me to the relevance of this novel: it is really easy to read, sure, and very involving. Guterson has a gift for description: the strawberry fields, the snow, the mossy tree, each character’s sex life, etc. But there is more to it than pretty words; it really makes you think about racial profiling and stereotyping. Well, Katsuo is a Kendo master, so he must been responsible for Carl’s head wound.

I read that Snow Falling on Cedars is taught in many schools (but also banned in some). It is a great novel to teach for things like language, but more so for the potential discussions about racism. It’s scary, because in the past seven years, America has painted all of its Arab-American citizens as potential terrorists. So, please read this novel as a reminder not to let these things happen!


No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: