Throughout this book, it was sometimes easy to forget that this actually happened in our country less than 100 years ago. The way the author works to combine a narrative from her memory along with photographs and other stunning pieces of art helps to emphasize the importance of maintaining a historical record of what happened during this time.
One thing that I really liked about this book was the structure and how the author went about telling the story. Towards the beginning, the author was telling the story of how she grew up, and she talked about their beach trip, what her father and mother did, and her family dynamic which at this point seemed fairly normal. It abruptly switches gears after the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. The story pivots to Lily and her family’s life in the internment camp. She attended school and had friends, but there was always this undertone of fear that was shown whether that be a about going out at night at the camp or other things like that.
Another thing I noticed was the internal battle that Lily was facing in terms of her identity. At certain points, like when she was at school saying the pledge, she had this attitude and had the idea that she was American, American, American. Yet, she was forced to go to an internment camp because she was of Japanese ancestry. Lily said, “Even you said it. I’m American, Mama, not Japanese. This Japanese are different from us.” Her mother replied, “American citizen, Yuri, American citizen. In sprit we are Japanese.” (page 50) I feel like this “choice” as to which was not only a common thought for Japanese-Americans, but for other immigrant groups as well as they were marginalized. As I’m sure a lot of other immigrant children felt, they were stuck between their parents and their values along with the American cultural values that they were growing up in.
Something else that I noticed was that the word ‘endure’ popped up multiple times in the book. It was something that her mother said to her in while they were in the internment camp, which I felt was a reassurance to Lily as well as herself when she was saying it. It was also an idea that I heard Lily repeat at least one other time throughout the book. In the final chapter, it was obvious that her and her family came out different people than who they were when they first arrived in the internment camps.
ps – while this isn’t a book that I would normally pick up, the emotion that Lily Havey portrays in her writing in combination with how the story is written made it so worth the read!