Bear Diamonds and Crane Cover

paper • 104 pages • 15.95
ISBN-13:  978-1-935536-13-0

Add to Cart

Bear, Diamonds and Crane

Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan

Bear, Diamonds and Crane depicts the struggles of the Sansei—the grandchildren of Japanese immigrants—with drugs, body image, naming, inherited family lore, and with neighborhood racism. She traces the Sansei’s experience uncovering their parents’ and grandparents’ lives from fragmentary answers and silences: “There is truth here, in the gaps and lapses, but don’t ask where.” In villanelles, haiku, and lyric poems collaged from family letters, Kageyama-Ramakrishnan recounts the meaning of “Forgotten Names” on her maternal grandparents’ side (“Tsuru,” Crane, her grandmother’s maiden name, names a legendary Japanese creature which was a symbol for peace, longevity, fidelity). In “Trailing Fragments: Things to Keep Inside a Bento Box,” she shows how our varied experiences of the world fit alongside each other, “coppery tones for a flight to Europe […] tortillas at a taco stand between Venice and Santa Monica […] blue envelopes with coconut flakes and sugar, box / housing us.”

In this collection, personal narratives take their place alongside group stories, “the wound” that “resists erasure and cultural amnesia. […] the image of barbed wire.” Kageyama-Ramakrishnan reflects on the life of her grandmother, who “acquiesced on impulse” to marry and move to the United States on the U.S.S. Jackson as well as on stories from Manzanar, the concentration camp where Japanese Americans were interned during World War II. “Perspectives on People of Japanese and American Descent” recounts a father left rubbing “his eyes free of debris behind walls/ that should have protected him,” reminding us that hope can seem far off. Yet Bear, Diamonds and Crane does offer hope: one child paraphrases the memorial plaque at Manzanar as “May the injustices of racism/ and hysteria never occur again,” and Sadako Sasaki’s protest against the atomic bomb echoes through the book: “After Hiroshima and Nagasaki, / Sadako Sasaki folded / a thousand cranes/ for world peace.” Even as Bear, Diamonds and Crane is haunted by the past resurfacing—some fearing “the dead calling them back,” another visited by a ghost who “return[s] in an olive pinto / asking me if I need / another ride,”—it hopes for children “holding cranes/ instead of rifles” and looks to the fourth
generation, the yonsei: “For you, I will keep the ripe weight,/ plums, apricots, budding persimmons.”

“1969,” from Bear, Diamonds and Crane

Early morning breakfast.
               Scrambled eggs and chopsticks.
               A yellow dog howls


La Grange on the west side
               of Los Angeles.
               A new generation


The grandparents are Issei.
               The parents, Nisei.
               The children are third to wear

                         their lineage.

About the Author

  • “In her highly anticipated second poetry collection, Bear, Diamonds and Crane, Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan's distinct voice is familiar and fresh, heartbreaking and, at times, humorous. Recounting a history both shared and deeply personal, this collection spans generations, mourning the inevitable loss of one and welcoming another, while noting the burden that each must carry.” —Blas Falconer
  • Bear, Diamonds and Crane, Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan's important, new collection of clipped and disciplined autobiographical lyrics, dramatizes a matrilineal, family lineage from immigration in the nineteen-twenties, through her mother, Nisei generation and on into her own, California, Sansei self robing and celebrating the mysteries of personal identity as they intertwine with history and culture.” —Gregory Orr
  • “The author explores family, love, and loss, particularly among several generations of Japanese Americans, in beautifully distilled little gems that explore the very limits of poetry and of life: 'Maybe you'll agree that when you filter,/ you translate. You filter and you lose.'” —From the Best Poetry Books of 2011 List from Library Journal

Also by Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan