Moving and powerful.
WHAT’S THE BOOK ABOUT
“All around me, my friends are talking, joking, laughing. Outside is the camp, the barbed wire, the guard towers, the city, the country that hates us.
We are not free.
But we are not alone.”
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.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK
Moving and powerful, Traci Chee’s We Are Not Free is one of the best books I have read so far in 2020. It is a collective account of fourteen second-generation Japanese American teens who are rooted overnight from their homes, along with their families and forced into incarceration camps during World War II by the United States government.
Overnight, the “American” is dropped from their identities. Because they look different.
Chee poignantly conveys the injustice of their imprisonment without any trial or charges. Their fear, anger, hopes, and shattered dreams – all are laid bare in front of us. Chee does not mince any words when the characters lay out their emotions. Take it or leave it. There is no sugar coating.
Through comic-book vivid descriptions, Chee describes every character in sharp detail and brings forth each one of them to life. We Are Not Free is not simply a story of their wrongful imprisonment but also a story of their growing up, finding themselves, and losing each other. Teenage crushes, living up to parents’ expectations, first kisses, first rebellion – everything finds a place in this book without any of this feeling inorganic.
This is a powerfully evocative read. I seldom get emotional while reading a book. However, I shed tears twice, first at 73% when Keiko is saying goodbye to her love, Twitchy, followed by another painful blow at 80%. This time, I could not control my tears for a long time. I had to stop reading for an hour or two. I could not (did not want to) believe what happened. That was the extent to which I was invested in the characters. All the injustice the teens faced hit me with a force.
Moreover, throughout the book, first-person POV dominates the narrative until the catastrophe mentioned brings them all together and changes it into a “We”, thus providing a third-person perspective into everyone’s feelings.
Traci Chee’s We Are Not Free is deeply captivating, powerful, and fast-paced. I am going to remember this story for years to come.
Read this book. Period.
“They were afraid of us then. They’re still afraid of us now,” Stan says. “But we didn’t do anything.” “What d’you mean, Minnow?” Stan smirks, but there’s a hard edge to his expression, like the blade of an axe. “We exist.”Traci Chee, author of We Are Not Free
Title: We Are Not Free || Author: Traci Chee || Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt || Publication Date: September 1, 2020 || Genres: Historical YA Fiction
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Traci Chee is the New York Times best-selling author of The Reader trilogy. She studied literature and creative writing at UC Santa Cruz and earned a master of arts degree from San Francisco State University. She is Japanese American and was inspired to write We Are Not Free by her family’s experience during World War II. Some of the events she includes in the book are loosely inspired by their stories. She loves books, poetry and paper crafts, as well as bonsai gardening and games. She lives in California.
Do visit the other blogs talking about this book through this tour here. Many thanks to Colored Pages Bookish Tours for inviting me to this tour. Many thanks to the publisher for my digital copy of the book via Netgalley. This does not affect my opinion on the book.
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