This 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, â€œinternment,â€ 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 â€œincarceration.â€ Therefore, Sandler’s choice to use the word â€œimprisonedâ€ for the book’s title and â€œbetrayalâ€ 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 â€œinternmentâ€ 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