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Karin Tanabe's 'The Diplomat's Daughter'

Think you’ve read every possible tale of love, shattered lives, and the atrocities of World War II? Think again.

In her fourth novel, The Diplomat’s Daughter, Karin Tanabe introduces you to three young people swept up in the looming global conflict: a Japanese diplomat’s daughter, an Austrian Jewish banker's son, and the son of a German-American steel baron.

With deftness and clarity, Tanabe probes some lesser known injustices of the time, and in so doing, reminds us how little has changed, with racism promoted daily in the name of national security.

Inspired by actor George Takai’s musical, Allegiance, based on his own family’s internment along with 120,000 other Japanese-Americans following Pearl Harbor, Tanabe examines the fight between family bonds, duty, and patriotism.

Julian Barton
Julian Barton

As the author notes, “My Japanese father was three years old when the firebombing of Tokyo and Yokohama occurred in May of 1945 . . . “My understanding of the war all started with my father being attacked by American bombs.” Regarding the internment camps, she adds, “I discovered that in fact more than 11,000 German-Americans were interned, many having been held alongside the Japanese in a family camp in Crystal City, Texas.”

Entwined with a timely history lesson is a forbidden love story that moves from Kristallnacht in Vienna to Crystal City in Texas, to Shanghai, Tokyo and the oceans between. With the eye of a war correspondent, the author illuminates the moral ambiguities of national alliances and the transcendent power of love.

As the daughter of refugees fleeing Nazi Germany and Austria, I was particularly moved by Tanabe’s authentic depiction of the rise of Adolf Hitler, the urgency to escape persecution, and the toll of innnumerable lives, along with a way of life, forever lost.

Paying tribute to those who helped her craft such a fine narrative, Tanabe thanked "those who are no longer with us, but whose shared memories over several decades made The Diplomat's Daughter come alive."