Japanese internment

In his comics-format memoir They Called Us Enemy (Top Shelf, 12 years and up), actor and activist George Takei describes his childhood years in two Japanese American internment camps during World War II (read our Five Questions interview with Takei here). The following books, both nonfiction and fiction (YA and a picture book), tell others' such stories with detail and compassion. For more, see "From the Guide: Be an Everyday Un-Hero" and the 1943 Horn Book Magazine article "Americans with the Wrong Ancestors."

In Enemy Child: The Story of Norman Mineta, a Boy Imprisoned in a Japanese American Internment Camp During World War II by Andrea Warren, former U.S. Congressman Norman Mineta shares his childhood experiences at Heart Mountain Internment Camp. Warren smoothly moves from her subject's personal experiences to incorporate the larger picture of the 120,000 Japanese American people interned across the U.S. during WWII. Warren leaves much to ponder about our nation's past and present and about "this beautiful tapestry that is America." (Holiday/Ferguson, 11–14 years)

In A Place to Belong by Cynthia Kadohata (illustrated by Julia Kuo), Hanako's family, interned during WWII and pressured by the government, renounces the family's American citizenship and returns to Japan after the war. Hanako is horrified at the devastation; however, the unconditional love of her grandparents allows her to adjust to a completely different way of living. Kadohata brings readers tightly into Hanako's psyche as she struggles to comprehend near-impossible situations—and ultimately to recognize the strength of people in the most challenging of circumstances. (Atheneum/Dlouhy, 11–14 years)   

Misa Sugiura's YA novel This Time Will Be Different follows contemporary Japanese American teen CJ Katsuyama as she learns more about her family's difficult past and decides to fight for justice. Upon being interned during WWII, CJ's grandparents were forced to sell their flower shop; they spent years earning the money to buy it back — and now it might fall into the hands of a huge corporation. The story paints an engaging picture of a girl facing the past — both her family's and her own — and taking action in service of her future. (HarperTeen, 14 years and up)     

Author Ann Malaspina and illustrator Merrilee Liddiard's picture book A Scarf for Keiko provides an accessible internment narrative for younger children. During WWII, Sam and Keiko's class is knitting socks for U.S. soldiers. Before Keiko's family is sent to an internment camp, Keiko leaves behind a note and a pair of hand-knitted socks for Sam's soldier brother. Sam (whose family is Jewish) determinedly makes a scarf to mail to Keiko in return, the phrase come home safely taking on new meaning for him. Many of the border-framed illustrations aptly look like vintage photographs. Appended with information about internment camps. (Kar-Ben, 5–8 years)

From the August 2019 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons University and a BA from Oberlin College.

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