Ishmael Chambers
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Ishmael Chambers

Snow Falling On Cedars

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About Him

Living… on San Piedro, an island divided among itself. Named by Spaniards who anchored there in 1603, lost during their search for a Northwest Passage, the island had generally steered clear of violence since. With two dozen coves and inlets peppered with sailboats and summer homes, it’s something of a hidden paradise in the Puget Sound region. The 1954 murder of Carl Heine has been the most distressing story since the wounding of an island resident by a Seattle yachtsman’s shotgun in 1951.

Profession… editor of a one-man newspaper and World War II veteran. Now Ishmael is covering a story about a possibly innocent man, Kazuo Miyamoto, who's been put on trial for Heine’s murder: “They only arrested him because he's Japanese. He's not doing much to help himself on that score. Sitting there so defiant. Just like a face from one of our propaganda films.” Ishmael is hoping to do what he can to help him.

Interests… the history between these two families – the Miyamotos and the Heines. Apparently there were some illegal contracts muddling a settlement between Kazuo Miyamoto and the family of Carl Heine. They sold Kazuo's land out from under him while he was off at war. It’s an obvious example of the poor treatment of Japanese-Americans during World War II – but the community isn’t exactly receptive to Ishmael’s cause.

Relationship Status… tied up with the case. Growing up, Ishmael kissed Kazuo's current wife Hatsue on the beach, and things progressed from there. It was a secret, forbidden passion. Her friends would have killed her if they knew she was seeing him. Her father would’ve killed him with a samurai sword. Her mother told her that the boys on this island are hakujin, “white people” who don’t understand Japanese ways. They don't see grace, and they are full of lust. Now Ishmael’s and Hatsue’s past is bubbling to the surface with her husband on trial.

Challenge… seeking justice for Kazuo. To Ishmael, Kazuo doesn't seem to understand that he's on trial for murder in the first degree.  And unless he wants to hang, he has to cooperate with his defense team. The jury will be prejudiced – that’s a given. But they need to at least see an innocent man, not an embittered one.

Personality… compassionate and a born storyteller. To Ishmael, this isn't really a case about the law. There's no way to prove anything beyond a reasonable doubt. To him, it's a preposterous story we're all coming up with together. Ishmael sees the bigger insights into human nature: “When anyone dies, we always want someone to blame, don't we? Even when there just isn't anyone.”

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