In this empowering deconstruction of the so-called American Dream, a twelve-year-old Japanese American girl grapples with, and ultimately rises above, the racism and trials of middle school she experiences while chasing her dreams.
As the daughter of immigrants who came to America for a better life, Annie Inoue was raised to dream big. And at the start of seventh grade, she’s channeling that irrepressible hope into becoming the lead in her school play.
So when Annie lands an impressive role in the production of The King and I, she’s thrilled . . . until she starts to hear grumbles from her mostly white classmates that she only got the part because it’s an Asian play with Asian characters. Is this all people see when they see her? Is this the only kind of success they’ll let her have—one that they can tear down or use race to belittle?
Disheartened but determined, Annie channels her hurt into a new dream: showing everyone what she’s made of.
Waka T. Brown, author of While I Was Away, delivers an uplifting coming-of-age story about a Japanese American girl’s fight to make space for herself in a world that claims to celebrate everyone’s differences but doesn’t always follow through.
In 1987, Japanese American Aoi Inoue (better known as Annie Enoway, "which people seemed more comfortable with"), dreams of being on stage. And after catching the basketball bug from her father, despite not even reaching 5'3", Annie is also excited to try out for a team. Though the girl is a dreamer like her optimistic dad who's a big believer in the American dream her down-to-earth mother never fails to remind Annie that her aspirations may not be realistic, instead encouraging a career in math and science. Nevertheless, Annie makes the basketball team and continues to pursue theater at every opportunity. The 12-year-old's chance onstage comes when she stars in her school production of The King and I, but a story spreads that she was only cast as the lead in the Siam-set show because she's Asian. Not only that, the rumor comes from an unexpected source, forcing Annie to grapple with whom she can trust as well as with the microaggressions happening all around her Kansas hometown. With encouragement from the school's theater director, Annie channels her hurt and confusion into the next production, determined to prove the naysayers wrong. Brown (While I Was Away) paints a realistic picture of one Japanese American child's experiences growing up in a mostly white town. Annie's arc is an uplifting one as she traverses the highs and lows of friendship, middle school, and family expectations to fulfill her dreams, despite the bigoted thinking of people around her. An author's note details inspiration for the work. Ages 8 12. Agent: Penny Moore, Aevitas Creative Management.