Truth in the Rivers is a collection of essays and poetry written by Bruce Hopkins and illustrated with watercolors by Howard N. Horii. Bruce is a noted environmentalist, teacher, and writer from the Loess Hills region of Iowa. His previous book is entitled When Foxes Wore Red Vests. Howard is a well-known artist and architect from the New York City/New Jersey area.
Thematically, the book has three distinct sections. The first section considers Howard’s early life as a young Japanese American student in the 1940s, living in California with his family. The family is uprooted and relocated following the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and placed in the Santa Anita Racetrack facility. From there they are sent to an internment camp in Arizona. The Japanese concept of “Ganbare” in the book is brought forth through the resilience and determination of the family to simply make the best of a horrific situation. As a result, Howard emerges as an artistic individual who spends his life acquiring the necessary skills needed to survive in a postwar world. He travels to New York where he seeks the opportunity to enhance his skills as both an artist and an architect. This section attempts to parallel Howard’s life with the lives of other young people who are coming of age.
The second section of the book entitled “Civil Rights” addresses the author’s experiences as a teacher of Black Studies during the 1960s. During this time he traveled with African American colleagues to the East Coast and the Deep South where he witnessed first-hand the implications of discrimination during that time period as well as at home in the Midwest.
The third section of the book entitled “Road Trips with Papa” brings us to the present and examines the need for all people to “teach the children well”. The implications and importance of connecting children to a natural world, to the necessary civic and moral issues that they face is accented. The profound result of these connections is that the children, in turn, remind us of the need to know these lessons ourselves.
Finally, the ending of the book comes “full circle.” Highlighted by the essay and poem “The Woodshed.” Here, the world of a young man from New England is influenced by the relationship that has been built with an older gentleman from New York City. The older man, who is a weekend visitor to the small New England town where the young man lives, wants to learn the ways of rural New England. The concrete outcome of the relationship is the “lean-to” they build together, a type of woodshed used for storing the tools as well as the ideals and stories of the New England region. The abstract or philosophical outcome is that at some point, the student becomes the teacher.
Human resilience, determination in the light of adversity, and the human ability to sustain the creative voice in spite of adversity runs throughout all of the stories.
“This inspiring book reminds me of why I love what I do. Watching a child’s senses spark while nature’s gifts are surrounding and inviting them into a world of sharing, caring, and understanding is priceless. We should all take a lesson from this book, and nature, by slowing down, listening, being patient and never letting the fire of a child’s imagination and love for learning burn out.” — Jody Moats, Naturalist, South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks
“Truth In The Rivers is an unforgettable journey for the reader with indelible moments of truth and understanding of what it is to be human. From ‘Ganbare’–the story of a Japanese-American family interned during World War II, depicted in a series of remarkable water colors by Howard Horii — to ‘An Underlying Set of Truths’ where we are confronted with painful and brutal reminders of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. These are powerful stories drawn from raw, unfiltered life experience and beautifully articulated by Bruce Hopkins.” — Gretchen Gondek, General Manager, KWIT-KOJI FM90 Public Radio
“Bruce Hopkins addresses issues that are of great importance and concern in our communal life….civil rights, the environment, our children. He does this through prose, poetry, paintings, and personal stories. I was personally interested in reading about the Japanese-American internment during the second world war. At that time I had a brief correspondence with a girl my age (9 years old) who had been interned with her family at a place called Poston, Arizona. Our Methodist Church in my small Iowa hometown had sent a “care package” to the residents of Poston. Soon after that I received a letter and photo from the young girl. I have often wondered what became of her and her family after the war was over.” — Joy Corning, Iowa Lt. Governor (1990-1998)
“Bruce Hopkins draws deeply from his extensive work as an environmentalist, educator and writer to craft an elegant literary song addressing thoughtful introspections of Japanese-American internment, 1960s Civil Rights and preparing our children for an environmentally rewarding future. Sung in perfect three-part harmony, this work will resonate with the reader long after the final note is delivered. These seemingly diverse topics, under Hopkins’ deft creative conjuring, effectively and aesthetically blend these into a gratifying sensory symphony.Granted, each of the three themes in Hopkins’ book could be stand-alone subjects for separate titles. His choice, however, plunges readers into the realm which feels like great friends gathering and following valued conversation paths as they flow. This gives a unique, bonding perspective to “Truth In The Rivers” as the seemingly unrelated story lines find a special convergence. Enhancing the reflective tones of Hopkins’ narrative and poetry are watercolors by Howard N. Horii, whose personal story deserves its own book. As Design Principal for Grad Associates, his architectural firm has received more than 100 design awards under his leadership. The soulful subtleties of his watercolors reflect a beauty through his painter muse, lending a special texturing to the book’s content. It also is through Horii’s life experiences that the first part of “Truth In The Rivers” manifests. Hopkins also visually peppers his language with other photographs and drawings, bringing a family album feel to this collection. From the Hopkins’ opening poems, sparely constructed with a crystal clarity, into his first essay drawing readers into a changed world for Japanese-Americans following the attack on Pearl Harbor, “Truth In The Rivers” quickly, enticingly unfolds into its foundation of compelling, immutable truths. From understanding the Japanese concept of Ganbare to chillingly important reminders of America’s Civil Rights, to its hopeful rallying of current stakeholders to empower our future generations in more thoughtful ways, Hopkins shares an honest, unfiltered gift with his readers, giving us all the opportunity to consider bigger pictures, yet on a very intimate level.” — John Busbee, The Culture Buzz, Des Moines, Iowa
“Bruce Hopkins weaves together seemingly disparate strands: Howard N. Horii’s graceful watercolor paintings of scenes from his family’s time in an Arizona internment camp during World War II; with essays about the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s; together with poems, essays, paintings, and photographs touting the lessons of nature and nature forays with children. The result? An artful tapestry that reveals how deeply nature, culture, politics, and education entwine to impact us all.” —Cheryl Fusco Johnson; author, and host of Writers’ Voices KRUU
“In this one short volume, Bruce Hopkins has applied three distinct forms, prose, poetry, and painting, to three different subjects to show that our experiences have a profound influence on us. He encourages us to use our relationships with family and friends to enhance their lives and, by doing so, help them make a better world for all. He has reaffirmed a major motivation for my Peace Corps service many years ago, that we are all connected.”–Jack Fitzpatrick, Architect and Peace Corps Volunteer (1970-1972)
“Heartbreaking and heartwarming stories about how strong we are in the face of war and unjust internments and how much we love places we call Home, and above all our Children. Remembering post WWII in Poland and living in America since 1981, I want to thank you Bruce Hopkins and Howard Horii for this beautiful book.”–Ewa Nogiec, Provincetown artist
“The Horii family story is so inspiring, a test of the human spirit and how adversity can be overcome, made into positive actions during those years in the camp and turned into successes throughout each of their lives. Howard’s watercolor images are so powerful and the feeling of the moment captured is so strong, whether depicting the serenity of the desert or the chaos at the Santa Anita racetrack, the paintings are moving. This is a fantastic journey to read and to experience through the artwork!”–Suzan Lucas Santiago, Principal, SANTIAGO design group llc
“These lovely essays, poems, and paintings hold important lessons to share with the children in our lives: respect for the beauty of Nature, celebration of art and creativity, justice and fairness as basic rights for all people, as well as the importance of building deep connections to the people we love, the communities that nurture us, and the heritage that shapes us.”–Deborah Stahl, early childhood education consultant, winner of the 2013 Work Life Legacy Award
“Howard Horii’s haunting images create an understanding of how goodness and beauty can outlive injustice, and sets the tone for this important book, which at its heart is about generational activism.”–Lydia Whitefield, Environmental and Civil Rights Activist
Hear Bruce talk about writing and his life during an episode of On The Fly