* NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST * PRINTZ HONOR BOOK * WALTER HONOR BOOK *
From New York Times best-selling and acclaimed author Traci Chee comes We Are Not Free, the collective account of a tight-knit group of young Nisei, second-generation Japanese American citizens, whose lives are irrevocably changed by the mass U.S. incarcerations of World War II.
Fourteen teens who have grown up together in Japantown, San Francisco.
Fourteen teens who form a community and a family, as interconnected as they are conflicted.
Fourteen teens whose lives are turned upside down when over 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry are removed from their homes and forced into desolate incarceration camps.
In a world that seems determined to hate them, these young Nisei must rally together as racism and injustice threaten to pull them apart.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
During World War II, the United States interned over 100,000 American citizens of Japanese descent in camps all along the West Coast, a travesty that author Traci Chee sensitively explores in this historical novel. We Are Not Free follows 14 teenagers growing up in San Francisco’s Japantown as they struggle to rebuild their lives after they’re forcibly imprisoned in one of these internment camps. By working together, Chee’s young protagonists find the strength to help their community survive great physical and psychological hardships. Chee tells each chapter of this difficult but inspiring story from a different teen’s perspective, and they all feel relatable. At the same time, she comes in hard with harrowing historical facts, drawing on both research and the experiences of her own grandparents. We Are Not Free shines light on a terrible stain on America’s history—while providing reason to hope for humanity even in the darkest of times.
Spanning three years, from March 1942 to March 1945, Chee's accomplished novel about America's treatment of Japanese Americans is told by 14 Nisei teenagers who have grown up together in San Francisco's Japantown. The book traces their varied trajectories, beginning with their initial deportation to a nearby incarceration camp, then a second move to the more developed compound of Topaz City, Utah, where prisoners are forced to pledge loyalty to the U.S. or to Japan through a questionnaire, and "No-Nos" those who refuse U.S. allegiance and military service are deported to yet another camp. Inspired by Chee's family history, the book powerfully depicts, as an author's note states, "a mere fraction of what this generation went through." Varying between first-, second-, and third-person narration; letters and verse; and even one chapter told by "all of us," each interconnected story has a distinct voice (a provided "Character Registry" is useful for keeping track of the many characters and relationships). The individual tales are well crafted and emotionally compelling, and they resolve into an elegant arc. Ambitious in scope and complexity, this is an essential contribution to the understanding of the wide-ranging experiences impacting people of Japanese ancestry in the U.S. during WWII. Ages 12 up. \n