Stolen Voices Excerpt

From the author of the international bestseller Zlata's Diary comes a haunting testament to how war's brutality affects the lives of young people. Stolen Voices, from which this text is excerpted, would be a fascinating addition to your literature or social studies curriculum.
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26 March 1944

Last night I finished reading about the life of a great Negro, George Washington Carver. The story of his life is bound to influence greatly my own.

For one thing I no longer felt satisfied with my choice of becoming a book illustrator and taking art and literature in college. No, after I read that book I regained my former love for nature and science and felt my life would be wasted, so far as being of service to mankind.

My own feelings and interests and loves fell in remarkably close with Carver's. For one thing, we both love nature; secondly, he and I both love, could and can do creative art work; third, we both like science; fourth, he too was handicapped by racial prejudice only more so than I; fifth, neither of us wanted to make a fortune. (I don't base success on how much money a person has. I want to use money as a means but not an end in itself.) Sixth, he and I in the most part have no desire for fame. I believe fame comes to those worthy of it. Not to those who go in search of it. The only difference between Carver and me is that Carver had brains. Carver was also excellent in music, and that Carver believed firmly in God, heart, mind, and soul. (I want to believe in God, I hold him dear in my heart, but doggone it, my mind won't. I pray to God that he will make my mind believe in God also.)

Finally, Carver had to make a decision over his love for art and his love for nature and science. He chose nature and science because he said "I can help my race better through agriculture."

I too have felt that I should serve God and mankind (had something of that sort in my mind on January 31st of 1944 — last sentence). I too feel that life should have a lofty purpose and reading that book convinced me of this. Wasn't it Edward Bok's mother who said "Edward leave this earth a little more pleasant, a little more beautiful because you have been in it."? And that's just what I'm thinking when I say I want to leave the earth a little more richer than the fertilizer in my body will return it. Come to think of it, my body is only returning what it took out, in other words, I should leave some pay for the interest too.

I want my life to be constructive not destructive.

20 August 1944

Today is a beautiful morning. Up and down our barracks, I can hear kids playing, doors opening and closing. Radios speaking in the barracks across from me. Japanese records playing at the back of me. Pop's over at the shogi room I guess — he's supposed to work out this morning with the dumbbells he received two weeks ago from York. Walt's still in bed sleeping, he went to our block social last night.

Gee, I some wish I could dance...

I guess it's like everything else - you've got to drive yourself and learn - no use sitting and wishing. Mom is probably washing clothes. I wonder how Grace is over in New York - haven't seen her now for a year, she's taking psychology and math at Hunter College. Her birthday is next week - good thing I sent her a present already.

I guess Frank's over at that picnic at Shelby today.

Well, the reason I'm writing again after such a long lapse is because around next Tuesday I'm going to go to active duty. Probably this shall be the last time I will write in this book in a long time. Perhaps I should also go over some of the news that has happened to me over the past three months. Well France has been invaded and the allies are now close to Paris. Saipan Island in the South Pacific has been taken with the result that Premier Tojo and his entire staff was forced to quit. Hitler has been almost killed. In Italy the Japanese Americans are doing a wonderful job. The 100th is the most decorated outfit in the army. Willie wrote from some place in Italy. Hasn't seen action yet. Volunteers from our camp have already met their death.

Heart Mountain has been a dead place — a wonderfully live place too. Dust has blown through it and snow storms too. Someday, from a foreign battlefield, I shall remember it with homesickness. Mother, father, brother, sister, friends, mess halls, movie theatres, ice skating, swimming, school, weightlifting — all shall try to well up in my throat at once.


Stanley Hayami


Stanley left Heart Mountain in June 1944 to join the U.S. Army. He never lost his faith in America, and remained defiantly patriotic to the last. He wrote the final extract of his diary while awaiting his first assignment in his US barracks. He was killed in combat in Northern Italy on April 23rd, 1945, while trying to help a fellow soldier. He was nineteen-years-old.

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