Story Spark: Under the Silk Hibiscus by Alice J. Wisler

Alice J. Wisler’s novel, Under the Silk Hibiscus, releases today from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.

This novel takes place in an internment camp in Wyoming where many Japanese-Americans were sent after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. There’s upheaval, frustration, pain, and sorrow.  Families are separated.  Some members are accused of being spies, like Nathan Mori’s father.

To balance the discrimination that evolved during this time period, I had to rely on humor and romance.

One of the most fun relationships I enjoyed crafting was between the main character, Nathan, and his aunt Kazuko. Even though she’s single and has no children of her own, Aunt Kazuko knows how to keep Nathan and his brothers in line.  But even she knows a body can’t live on hard work alone. Cookies are her friends! She keeps morsels in her sweater sleeves, taking them out when she needs “a pep”.

And of course, there’s young romance. Nathan dreams of the lovely singer, Lucy, and wants her to notice him, but she seems more interested in his older brother, Ken.

There are two characters which are not people—one is Heart Mountain, the mountain viewed every day from those in the barracks at the camp.  Then there is the Mori family’s coveted gold watch, a family heirloom from Japan.

So the questions form:  Will Nathan get the girl?  What happens to the family heirloom during the war and after the war ends? Does Nathan’s father return?  How does war and discrimination change hearts?  How does God’s love prevail?

Recipe from Under the Silk Hibiscus:

My character, Aunt Kazuko, is all about eating a cookie . . . or two.  She often says she needs “a pep” to pep her up.  Here is her cookie recipe for raisin cookies, sure to add fun to anyone’s day.

Recipe for Aunt Kazuko’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (1946)

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ cup shortening

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 ½ cups rolled oats

2/3 cup buttermilk

½ cup chopped nuts

1 cup seedless raisins

Cream shortening, blend in sugar and add egg. Beat until smooth and light.  Sift flour with salt, soda and cinnamon.  Stir half the flour in with egg mixture; add milk, the rest of flour, and then oats, nuts and raisins.  Stir till well mixed.  Drop from a teaspoon onto a buttered baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees F. for 10 minutes or until nicely browned.  Yields about 36 cookies.

Under the Silk Hibiscus

During World War Two, Nathan and his family are sent to Heart Mountain, an internment camp in Wyoming for Japanese-Americans. Nathan’s one desire is to protect the family’s gold pocket watch, a family heirloom brought over from Japan. He fails; the watch is stolen. Struggling to make sense of his life in a bleak camp as the only responsible man of the household, Nathan discovers truths about his family, God, and the girl he loves.

About Alice J. Wisler

???????????????????????????????Alice has authored four contemporary novels published by Bethany House: Rain Song (Christy Finalist), How Sweet It Is (Christy Finalist), Hatteras Girl and A Wedding Invitation, and Still Life in Shadows by River North/Moody. Her newest novel, Under the Silk Hibiscus (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas) is her first historical romance.

Since the death of her four-year-old son, Alice teaches grief-writing workshops and her devotional, Getting out of Bed in the Morning: Reflections of Comfort in Heartache (Leafwood), covers the many losses we face and how God sustains us through each one.

In 2012, Alice and her husband started a business, Carved By Heart, where they carve memorial plaques/remembrances, house number signs, bird feeders, rustic clocks, and other home décor.


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Alice’s Patchwork Quilt Blog

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9 thoughts on “Story Spark: Under the Silk Hibiscus by Alice J. Wisler

  1. WWII is my favorite historical era both to read about and to research, but I don’t know very much about the internment camps.

    Alice, thank you for writing a story about this part our history and also for sharing the cookie recipe. I’m so pleased to have you as a guest.

  2. I think people who don’t read fiction miss so much. How can we possibly come close to understanding what others have experienced in situations like this without reading stories–even fiction ones–that give us a glimpse into their lives? This story sounds like one that can do just that. The cookie recipe is a bonus. 🙂

    • Sylvia, you are so right. Earlier today I read an essay by Alton Gansky (“Fiction Matters,” Imagination @ Work) which talks about this. His ending line: “Often, more can be said in a story than can be said in a lecture.” He’s so right.

      I’m not much of a baker, so if you try those cookies let us know how they turn out.

      Thanks for your insightful comment.