MG – Tangled History

Tangled History. Capstone Press, 2016-2020 (2020 Titles Listed). $24.54 ea. $588.96 set of 24. Grades 3-6.

Otfinoski, Steven. The Battle of Iwo Jima: Turning the Tide of War in the Pacific. 978-1-54357-258-2.
Burgan, Michael. The Battle of the Bulge: Nazi Germany’s Final Attack on the Western Front. 978-1-54357-259-9.
—. Hiroshima and Nagasaki: The Atomic Bomings that Shook the World. 978-1-54357-256-8.
Otfinoski, Steven. Japanese American Internment: Prisoners in Their Own Land. 978-1-54357-257-5.

Part of the Tangled History series, Japanese American Internment uses the lives of a dozen individuals who were impacted to tell the story of of the Japanese American internment which took place after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and continued until March 1946, when the last of the detainees were released from Tule Lake internment camp in California. Harvey Itano was not present to receive the Gold Medal for Outstanding Student award at his graduation ceremony from the University of California, Berkeley because he and his family were sent to an internment camp. Isamu Noguchi was a well-known sculptor when he volunteered to go to Poston, Arizona and teach art to internees. Mine Okubo and her brother were to be separated when they arrived at the Tanforan Assembly Center in California, but Okubo insisted they be kept together. Their quarters were horse stables, and they were given bags of ticking to fill with straw for mattresses. These are just a few of the stories told about this shameful time in American history. Through their experiences, students will learn what internment meant to Japanese Americans, from the day of the Pearl Harbor bombing until the final detainees were released.

THOUGHTS:  Middle School students likely have little idea about this time in America’s past, and the stories of individuals and the included photos will help illuminate what that experience was like for those involved.  It is certainly a timely addition to a collection.

940.53  World War II          Melissa Johnston, North Allegheny SD

YA – We Are Not Free

Chee, Traci. We Are Not Free. Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, 2020. 978-0-358-13143-4. $17.99. 384 p. Grades 9 and up.

Traci Chee’s National Book Award Finalist, We Are Not Free, takes the reader from the close-knit community of Japantown in San Francisco at the start of World War II to the gradual closing of the Japanese imprisonment camps at the end of the war. Told in first-person narrative, each teen—ranging from ages 14 to 19–brings a perspective of life as an American of Japanese descent, from the growing discrimination toward the Japanese after the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the injustices of the camps to the explicit racism displayed when their families return to their former neighborhood. In a novel where credible character development is critical, author Chee shows a wide range of astute writing ability inhabiting the minds of the varied group of young people inhabiting two camps, Topaz and Tule Lake. Sensitive Aiko Harano who at only 13 realizes not only the unfairness of the American government’s oppression of her family and friends, but also the repugnancy of her own parents’ abusive treatment of her older brother, Tommy. Intellectual Stan Katsumoto surrenders his hard-earned dream of continuing his college education when he sides with his parents in being a “No No” person: refusing to relinquish allegiance to the Japanese emperor when no allegiance had ever been formed. Perhaps the most impressive chapter is David “Twitchy” Hashimoto’s, the happy-go-lucky, ever-moving nineteen-year-old who, like several of his friends, volunteered to serve in the military, to go to war. The battle description Chee develops with Twitchy’s commentary is both action-packed and gut-wrenching. Though there are other selections telling of the imprisonment of the Japanese-Americans (in an afterword, Chee advises to delete the term, Japanese internment, in favor of more accurate terms like incarceration, imprisonment, forced removal), We Are Not Free dives deep into what it was like in the camps and how it affected a non-combative community. Works like Journey to Topaz  by Yoshiko Uchida, Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata, or Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban—to name just a few–give readers a glimpse into this ignominious period of American history, but We Are Not Free covers the full scope and does so through the voices of teens with whom young readers can relate. This book tells a powerful story, one that has not always been fully explored, but has a new resonance in today’s society. Contains further readings, some historical images.

Historical Fiction          Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia

THOUGHTS: After reading this book, I feel that all the other historical fiction books on this topic are just a prelude. If I had to choose one book to recommend on the experience in Japanese prison camps to a high school student, We Are Free would be the one. Chee is able to reveal the complications of feeling American and patriotic while also feeling unaccepted by and disheartened by one’s government. In literature lessons, students can examine the character development in a short chapter. In history class, the revelations of injustices and wrongs can be debated and discussed.