When I tore open the envelope this book came in (I'm always excited when a book arrives in the mail), I was impressed with the stunning cover. I had asked to do this review because the subject of this novel, Japanese Internment Camps during World War II, has always fascinated me. (One of my favorite picture books ever is Baseball Saved Us.)
Camp Nine by Vivienne Schiffer does its cover justice. The author describes the small-town Arkansas setting with an authenticity derived from her upbringing in those environs. The fact that there was a camp in Arkansas was a total surprise to me as I'd thought/assumed all camps were in the West; in fact most camps were in western states, save the one on which this story is based. I love to learn something completely new as the byproduct of a good read.
The building of the camp and the arrival of the Japanese are seen through the eye's of narrator Chess Morton, a girl who is something of an outsider in her own hometown. There are complicated family relationships to navigate as well as her relationship to the camp and to those within the camp who become her friends.
Social mores and conventions are examined and questioned by Chess and she and the reader both gain insight into the conventions and mores of the reluctant inhabitants of Camp Nine.
This summer there was a great controversy over the novel and movie The Help, with many contending that it is time for white audiences to begin reading and seeing stories from the civil rights movement that are not filtered through the lens of a white narrator. That controversy was in my mind as I read this book because this story of Japanese Internment is told through the lens of the white narrator and by a white author.
The conclusion I've come to (though I have great respect for those who will disagree with me) is that there is always a place for a well-told story that resonates and educates. In the case of Camp Nine the author has used her experiences and the stories she was told, as a child, of the camp to craft a work that fulfills that dual promise of both resonance and education.
If you'd like to enter to win my copy of the book, leave me a comment telling me what historical or social movement you're always eager to read more about. I'll pick a winner at random next week and then drag my heels on putting in the mail to you!
Thank you to TLC book tours for the free copy of the book and the opportunity to do this review/giveaway.