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WE ARE NOT FREE by Traci Chee Kirkus Star


by Traci Chee

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2020
ISBN: 978-0-358-13143-4
Publisher: HMH Books

Young Japanese Americans tell of life during World War II.

In San Francisco’s Japantown, a group of teens has grown up together and become like family. But life in America after the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor is dangerous for them. They and their families are taken to the Topaz incarceration camp in Utah, where the harsh conditions and injustices they experience turn their worlds upside down. They draw some comfort in being together—however, a government questionnaire causes rifts: Loyalties are questioned, lines are drawn, and anger spills over, threatening to destroy the bonds that once held them together. The teens are forced apart, some enlisting in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team while the No-Nos (those who refuse to serve in the U.S. military and swear allegiance solely to the U.S. government) are relocated to the Tule Lake camp, and others, whose families passed background checks, are allowed to resettle in locations around the country. This is a compelling and transformative story of a tragic period in American history. Written from the 14 young people’s intertwining points of view, each character fills in a segment of time between 1942 and 1945. The styles vary, including both first- and second-person narration as well as verse and letters. Each voice is powerful, evoking raw emotions of fear, anger, resentment, uncertainty, grief, pride, and love. Historical photographs and documents enhance the text.

An unforgettable must-read.

(author’s note, further reading, image credits) (Historical fiction. 13-18)