After the United States enters World War II, a half-Japanese teen and his white mother find themselves interned at the Alameda Downs Assembly Center.
Everything changes for 13-year-old Koji Miyamoto after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. His schoolmates accuse him of being a “Jap spy,” and streetcars refuse to stop for him on the street. It doesn’t help that his father has returned to Japan; Koji worries that his father may be fighting for the Japanese in the war. When Koji receives a summons to a “relocation” camp, his mother, Adeline, chooses to accompany him. The living conditions at Alameda Downs are deplorable, but Koji struggles even more with his outsider status. The other camp teenagers call him gaijin, involve him in brawls and spread gossip about his mother. Inspired by the true story of Faulkner’s great-aunt, the graphic novel features gouache illustrations that deftly capture Koji’s anger and frustration when he’s rejected by his peers and treated as an “enemy alien” despite his citizenship. The simple text provides enough historical context to help young readers who may be unfamiliar with the history of Japanese-American internment to understand Koji’s story.
An accessible account about a dark—and still too-little-known—moment in American history. (author’s note, resources) (Graphic historical fiction. 9-12)