When Pearl Harbor was bombed in December of 1941, there were approximately 113,000 people of Japanese descent living on the western edge of the United States. Most of them were in the state of California. The Uchida family was a middle-class family living in Berkeley, California at the time. Mr. and Mrs. Uchida had two daughters – Kieko and Yoshiko. A Swiss family lived on one side of them and a Norwegian family on the other side. They thought of themselves as Americans, not Japanese citizens.
Life changed dramatically after the bombing. People suddenly thought of them as the enemy. The FBI arrested Mr. Uchida along with other Japanese businessmen. In February of 1942, the president of the United States ordered that all persons of Japanese descent be evicted from the west coast and relocated to government internment camps. Mrs. Uchida and her two daughters were sent to a prison camp in a desert area in Utah. Eventually Mr. Uchida was allowed to join them in the camp.
The camps were primitive, dirty, short of food, and lacking basic necessities like reliable running water. Bathrooms had no doors on them, and the Uchidas were assigned to live in a drafty horse stall at first, and a small barracks room later on. Although they did not appear to have been beaten or tortured like prisoners of war in Germany, they were forced to live as if they were a sub-species of humans. Yoshi does a good job of describing what life was like in the internment camps. After two years of detention, she and her sister were permitted to leave the camp and go to a college, but their parents remained imprisoned.
This is the perfect book to introduce young people to what life was like for Japanese Americans during World War II. It is not too long, and does not contain any graphic content. I would say, however, that the description on the front cover of the book is a bit misleading. It says “the powerful memoir of a girl”. Yoshi was in her last year of high school when the Pearl Harbor attack happened, and was a young adult during her internment. She worked as a teacher of 2nd grade children in the camp. But that point aside, this is still a fine book.