Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War II by Martin W. Sandler is one of the finalists for the 2014 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults. Great nonfiction can encourage readers to find out more about its subject matter, which often leads them to seek out great fiction based on the same topic.
Just as Martin W. Sandler uses comprehensive research and first-hand accounts to bring the event surrounding the Japanese American internment to life, each of the following novels addresses the experience of young Japanese Americans in different ways. Weedflower and Thin Wood Walls tackle the internment experience head on, while Beacon Hill Boys examines the legacy of internment for the children and grandchildren of internees. Best Friends Forever takes the form of a fictional scrapbook, illustrating moments in the lives of two young girls separated by the internment.
(The following book summaries are from the publishers’ jacket copy.)
Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata – Twelve-year-old Sumiko feels her life has been made up of two parts: before Pearl Harbor and after it. The good part and the bad part. Raised on a flower farm in California, Sumiko is used to being the only Japanese girl in her class. Even when the other kids tease her, she always has had her flowers and family to go home to. That all changes after the horrific events of Pearl Harbor. Other Americans start to suspect that all Japanese people are spies for the emperor, even if, like Sumiko, they were born in the United States! As suspicions grow, Sumiko and her family find themselves being shipped to an internment camp in one of the hottest deserts in the United States. The vivid color of her previous life is gone forever, and now dust storms regularly choke the sky and seep into every crack of the military barrack that is her new “home.” Sumiko soon discovers that the camp is on an Indian reservation and that the Japanese are as unwanted there as they’d been at home. But then she meets a young Mohave boy who might just become her first real friend…if he can ever stop being angry about the fact that the internment camp is on his tribe’s land.
Beacon Hill Boys by Ken Mochizuki – Like other Japanese American families in the Beacon Hill area of Seattle, 16-year-old Dan Inagaki’s parents expect him to be an example of the “model minority.” But unlike Dan’s older brother, with his 4.0 GPA and Ivy League scholarship, Dan is tired of being called “Oriental” by his teachers, and sick of feeling invisible; Dan’s growing self-hatred threatens his struggle to claim an identity. Sharing his anger and confusion are his best friends, Jerry Ito, Eddie Kanagae, and Frank Ishimoto, and together these Beacon Hill Boys fall into a spiral of rebellion that is all too all-American.
Thin Wood Walls by David Patenaude – Eleven-year-old Joe Hanada likes playing basketball with his best friend, Ray, writing plays and stories, and thinking about the upcoming Christmas holiday. But his world falls apart when Japanese planes bomb Pearl Harbor. His country goes to war. The FBI takes his father away. And neighbors and friends in his hometown near Seattle begin to suspect Joe, his family, and all Japanese Americans of spying for the enemy. When the government orders people of Japanese heritage living on the West Coast to move to internment camps, including Joe and his family, Joe turns to the journal his father gave him to record his thoughts and feelings.
Best Friends Forever: A World War II Scrapbook by Beverly Patt – German-American Louise Kessler, 14, starts a scrapbook when her best friend, Dottie Masuoka, leaves for the Japanese internment camps. Louise’s scrapbook includes items from her life â€œon the home frontâ€ as well as Dottie’s letters and drawings from the internment camp. Together, their intertwined stories tell of a friendship that even war cannot tear apart.
-2014 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults committee