In episodic bursts, a Nisei lad describes two and a half years of making do in a World War II–era relocation camp.
Swept off his family’s West Coast farm in the wake of Pearl Harbor and resettled along with thousands of other Japanese Americans in Arizona, 12-year-old Tetsu quietly waits with his mother and his beloved little sister, Kimi, for his father, who has been interned in another camp. At Gila River, he makes friends and enthusiastically pitches in to clear and construct a baseball field. When he accidentally allows Kimi to run off into the desert and she comes down with a severe case of Valley Fever, he drops off the team and even discards his treasured Mel Ott glove. Incorporating information and specific incidents drawn from interviews with former camp residents, Fitzmaurice has Tetsu describe his experiences and feelings in restrained vignettes threaded with poetic language—“Kimi looked at me with those eyes that always found the good part of things.” The outlook does brighten at last after his father appears as the war winds down, and Tetsu picks up bat and glove again in time to compete against other camps’ teams.
A simply drawn picture of a shameful chapter in this country’s race relations, sharing a theme with Ken Mochizuki’s classic, angry Baseball Saved Us (1993) but less an indictment than a portrait of patience in adversity. (afterword, source list) (Historical fiction. 10-12)