Monday, October 11, 2021

Review: When Can We Go Back to America by Susan H. Kamei

Today's review, proves that history is not dry and boring. When I was offered to take a look at this book, I was definitely curious...and also a little unsure if it'd be something young adults might enjoy. The idea of having 130 individuals add their own personal experiences and thoughts, promised a more than interesting read. And luckily, the author did an amazing job at this one. It truly shows how personal history is.

by Susan H. Kamei
Foreword by Norman Y. Mineta
Simon & Schuster
Young Adult Nonfiction / History
736 pages

In this dramatic and page-turning narrative history of Japanese Americans before, during, and after their World War II incarceration, Susan H. Kamei weaves the voices of over 130 individuals who lived through this tragic episode, most of them as young adults.

It’s difficult to believe it happened here, in the Land of the Free: After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States government forcibly removed more than 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry from the Pacific Coast and imprisoned them in desolate detention camps until the end of World War II just because of their race.

In what Secretary Norman Y. Mineta describes as a “landmark book,” he and others who lived through this harrowing experience tell the story of their incarceration and the long-term impact of this dark period in American history. For the first time, why and how these tragic events took place are interwoven with more than 130 individual voices of those who were unconstitutionally incarcerated, many of them children and young adults.

Now more than ever, their words will resonate with readers who are confronting questions about racial identity, immigration, and citizenship, and what it means to be an American.

GOODREADS   /    AMAZON    /   BOOK DEPOSITORY    /   B&N    /    KOBO


This is a wonderful weave of historical events and very personal experiences, which touches the heart, makes an impression, and leaves more than a little food for thought.

These pages take a look at the WWII incarceration of Japanese-Americas and cover the time before, during and after the experience. The author starts with a few notes, explaining the research and methods used as well as laying out the foundation for the basis of the read. Then, the foreword gives the personal insight from Secretary Norma Y. Mineta, before leading into the author's own background and thoughts. From there, the book takes a chronological look at the events, always sliding and staying close to those effecting the theme. The individual recounts and thoughts are then sprinkled between the facts to create a well-knit look into the entire event.

I was looking forward to reading this one, since it's always interesting to learn history from those who lived it. My only fear was that it'd be too dry, even though it is intended for the young adult audience. This fear was completely unnecessary. The author does do a masterful job at laying out the facts...and this in an easy-to-read manner...and allowing the accounts and thoughts to slide right in between. These accounts are never too long, but offer just the right glimpse into the situation. They flow right along, letting the history come to life and not stay an arm length's away.

This is a read which will pull in more than just history-buffs. It draws the reader to thought and makes it clear that history is the experience of real people, and not just notes on a page. 

And here she is...

Susan H. Kamei received her JD from the Georgetown University Law Center. She teaches at the University of Southern California on the legal ramifications of the incarceration of persons of Japanese ancestry during World War II and how they apply to constitutional issues, civil liberties, and national security considerations today.

1 comment:

Natalie Aguirre said...

I've always been interested in the incarceration of Japanese-Americans during WWII. This sounds really interesting, even if it is super long at over 700 pages. Glad you enjoyed it.