The untold story of a South Dakota Nisei veteran


A Place for Harvest: The Story of Kenny Higashi

By Lauren R. Harris, illustrated by Felicia Hoshino (Pierre, S.D.: South Dakota Historical Society Press, 2022, 32 pp., $19.95, hard cover)

Many of us are familiar with Executive Order 9066. More than 100,000 persons of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast were forced to leave their homes, businesses and lives during World War II. Bringing only what they could carry, they were incarcerated in desolate barbed wire concentration camps.

Lauren Harris and Felicia Hoshino introduce us to Kenny Higashi, a Nisei whose wartime experience is unlike other Nisei of the time. It begins with his childhood in a farming family just outside of Spearfish, South Dakota. Kenny helps his folks with planting, weeding, watering, harvesting and deliveries. In his free time, he enjoys fishing and whittling toys and fishing poles with his dad. Kenny loves his family, their farm, and his hometown, which his father thought was “the perfect place for a harvest of happiness.”

Kenny and his older brother Clarence are running the family farm when Japan attacks Pearl Harbor. When Executive Order 9066 is issued, the Spearfish community is supportive of their family. However, two men in military uniforms arrive at the Higashi home with “a deal.” If one brother joins the army, the other brother and family members can remain on the farm. Kenny volunteers and joins the storied 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team, where he serves with honor and distinction.

Harris is from a military family and she has spent countless hours recording stories and experiences of American soldiers. While living in Spearfish, Harris was introduced to Kenny Higashi and they formed a friendship. “A Place for Harvest” is the result of their conversations and Harris’ passion to share the story of a courageous Nisei who served his country on the war front while ensuring his family’s freedom at home.

Hoshino’s lovely, detailed illustrations perfectly complement Harris’ text and transport us from the Higashi Farm and Spearfish to the battlegrounds of Europe. On Hoshino’s Website, you can view the shared history between her family and Kenny’s. Both families worked the land, both were affected by Executive Order 9066, and like Kenny, two of Hoshino’s great uncles served in the 442nd.

“A Place for Harvest” is a sincere telling of Kenny Higashi’s life and is an important addition to the collection of picture books teaching about the Japanese American experience during World War II. I highly recommend this book and look forward to sharing it with family, students, and colleagues.

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