When Can We Go Back to America?: Voices of Japanese Incarceration During World War II by Susan H. Kamei


When Can We Go Back to America?: Voices of Japanese Incarceration During World War II by Susan H. Kamei. Simon and Schuster, 2021. 9781481401449

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Format: Hardcover 

What did you like about the book? Do not let the 700+ pages in this volume scare you. It is an amazing and thorough compilation of some of the voices of Japanese-Americans who were incarcerated in the United States during World War II. The first half of the book (pages 1 – 360) is a linear timeline of narratives beginning with the bombing of Pearl Harbor and then moving swiftly into the horrifying recollections of Japanese-Americans as they were forcibly removed from the West Coast of the United States and put into, as Susan Kamei explains it, concentration camps. The book follows the incarcerees as they endure the camp hardships, make a life and a community for themselves, protest their imprisonment, work outside the camps, enlist in the US Armed Forces, and are gradually released at the war’s end. The stories continue through 2015 with former inmates bringing wrongful imprisonment suits against the United States government, an apology in 1988 by then President Ronald Reagan, and the final court hearings as the prisoners grow older and continue their pursuit of reparations. The second half of the book presents short biographies of the contributors, including their lives after release.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book?   This book would be wonderful for history buffs, anyone interested in WWII, Japanese internment AND also for those thinking about social justice issues and racism.

Who should buy this book?  Every single high school in the United States should purchase this book and display it prominently. Public libraries should have it on their shelves as well

Where would you shelve it? Nonfiction, World War II Japanese Internment (940.547)

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? It’s a long book and one that frequently provokes serious questions. I would put it at the top of your “pick it up, put it down and think about it” pile.

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State:Pam WattsFlavin, Head of Children’s Services, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA.

Date of review: October 1, 2021

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