Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Quiet Passage, Big Secret: The Train to Crystal City: A Journey with Jan Jarboe Russell

Smoke billows out the train’s stack, smothering a big Texas sky. The freight cars jolt, grind, and then squeal to a stop at the station. It’s 1942 in Crystal City, Texas, and the hundreds of Japanese, German, and Italian immigrant passengers that have just arrived aren’t clutching their children’s shoulders in anticipation of new prospects. They are, in fact, newly defined prisoners of war. Prisoners soon to be traded for better esteemed Americans behind enemy lines in Japan and Germany. Swap an immigrant and his American-born child for a diplomat, or maybe a doctor. Welcome to the “Quiet Passage,” a bleak moment of U.S. history during the darkest of times, World War II.

Author Jan Jarboe Russell opens the door to this secret passage in her New York Times bestselling book, The Train to Crystal City: FDR's Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America's Only Family Internment Camp During World War II. And Russell’s got her own train to catch; next stop, Birmingham. Join Russell in a reading, discussion, and book signing on Tuesday, September 29, 2015, from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m., in the Arrington Auditorium of the Central Library as she uncovers the scandalous acts of a nation distrustful of its own citizens.

The Train to Crystal City follows two American-born teens incarcerated in an internment camp in Crystal City, a small desert town at the southern tip of Texas. There, the girls live as ready-made bargaining chips, and they are swapped with higher-esteemed Americans behind enemy lines in Japan and Germany. The struggle with this betrayal is overshadowed with the struggle to survive in a foreign, war-torn country.

For this book, Russell interviewed over 50 surviving Crystal City prisoners to find the truth in the tragedy. From 1942 to 1945, secret government trains delivered over 6,000 Japanese, German, and Italian immigrants and their American-born children to Crystal City. The internment camp continued to operate three years after the war had ended as government officials scratched their heads, wondering what to do with everyone inside.

S.C. Gwynne, New York Times bestselling author of Rebel Yell and Empire of the Summer Moon, called The Train to Crystal City a “story of heartbreaking dislocation, of lives smashed and ruined, and of almost unbelievable human endurance, resilience, and determination.”

Families uprooted, loyalties broken, lives endangered overseas—a betrayal on a national scale. And after the war ends, how do you reconcile with a nation that turned against you? Join Jan Jarboe Russell on September 29 for a provocative reading and discussion about civil rights violations.

Jan Jarboe Russell is currently a contributing editor for Texas Monthly magazine. A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin in 1972 with a BA in journalism, she has written for the New York Times, the San Antonio Express-News, and many other publications, and won numerous awards. Visit Jan Jarboe Russell's Facebook page for more touring information.

This event commemorates the 70th anniversary of the end of the Pacific War. For more information, visit Jan Jarboe Russell's call 205.226.3670.

Bethany Mitchell
Arts/Literature/Sports Department
Central Library

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