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Nonfiction Award Finalist: Imprisoned by Martin W. Sandler

2014 January 17
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ImprisonedThis finalist for YALSA’s 2014 Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award focuses on the incarceration of Japanese-Americans during World War II in a bold and compelling way. It’s vivid in detail and doesn’t hold back in its telling of a dark part of America’s history.

In my reading of many other books on the same topic, I’ve learned that the vocabulary used to describe this event holds a great deal of weight. The official term most of us learn in history class, “internment,” is considered sanitized and inaccurate by many who actually experienced this disruption and trauma in their lives. Japanese-American advocacy groups such as Densho tend to use the term “incarceration.” Therefore, Sandler’s choice to use the word “imprisoned” for the book’s title and “betrayal” as part of the subtitle immediately informs the reader that this book holds a strong position about the injustice of the incarceration of Japanese-Americans during World War II– and the text most certainly supports that position.

Sandler’s clear, well-organized writing draws on personal narratives of Japanese-Americans who lived in the “internment” camps and is accompanied by a wealth of black & white photographs. The narrative is thorough; Sandler not only details life in the camps, but also puts the incarceration in context by touching upon the prejudice against Japanese-Americans before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He also addresses the aftermath of the incarceration during the following decades. The reader will come away with a clear understanding of this piece of history and its significance.

Reading this book brings to mind the dystopian fiction trend in YA lit. A government-sanctioned incarceration of innocent citizens, with little warning or a valid explanation? It sounds like the latest Divergent readalike, but sadly, it’s our history. Sandler’s book comes at a time when teens can make a clear connection from the futuristic fiction they love and the stark recounting of true-life events.

I think this book is an example of nonfiction that teen readers will really connect to. Kudos to YALSA’s Excellence in Young Adult Nonfiction Award committee for recognizing Imprisoned.

-Allison Tran, currently reading an ARC of The Shadow Hero, by Gene Luen Yang & Sonny Liew

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One Response
  1. Rebecca King permalink
    January 21, 2014

    I just finished this book this morning, as part of the YALSA challenge. It was both compelling and disturbing, especially as I also recently finished The Nazi Hunters – so much injustice both overseas and at home. All very important parts of our nation’s history. One subtle idea that could be a hot discussion point for this book is the importance of voting at various elections and thoroughly investigating each candidate’s background and position on various hot topics as elected officials in California played a significant part in the decision to imprison the Japanese Americans.

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