Dear America: The Fences Between Us: The Diary Of Piper Davis: Seattle, Washington, 1941 (Playaway Children) - Kirby Larson, Elaina Erika Davis

I think the kids of my generation (tail end of Generation X) could have really used a book series like this back in the 80s/90s. It is a perfect mix of historical detail and realistic kids' characterization. Definitely going to introduce these books to my kids when they get to the reading level.

 

In this book, we get Piper Davis, a seventh-grader growing up in Seattle and the youngest of three preacher's kids (PK for short). Piper has a great family and she knows it - the family angst comes from her older brother joining the Navy in the few months before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Piper is aware that there is a war going on in Europe and in China (Japan's expansion plans started here), but the war is also an abstract concept to her until December 7, 1941. Piper is also developing as a young teen, with thoughts turning to boys and trying to get away with wearing lipstick; there is a maturing side to Piper as a person as well, since she is decides to knock the dust off her camera and capture life at home to send photos to her brother. Again, overall, Piper was realistic and likeable.

 

Her dad is the pastor of Japanese Baptist church in Japantown and as such, the Japenese are not a foreign entity to Piper - rather, they are her friends, fellow Baptists, her fellow Americans, her fellow school kids, etc. Piper is not sweet, Mary-Sue character, but she is tender-hearted (as most kids her age) and she is lost in a myriad of feelings when the Japenese-Americans are sent to War Relocation Administration (WRA) camps. But her world is turned upside down when her father gets permission from the church elders to move with the Japenese-Americans so that he can continue to administer to their faith's needs while also working on practical matters for them (such as writing to lawyers and congress people to let the few Japanese-American men from his church free from their unlawful arrest by the FBI).

 

Piper sees first hand the conditions the Japanese live in and the discrimination they faced since December 7th. Her budding photography career documents this treatment and how the Japanese-Americans work to better the camp. She is at once one of them and a minority, being the only non-military white person at the camp (other than her dad). At the same time, she is also worried about her brother fighting in the Pacific theater.

 

Just a really great book to introduce the less than rah-rah side of America's fight during WWII. But there are no chapters; just a break between diary entries at home in Seattle and then entries at the camp. Random library book once again was a winner and a challenge category filler - "based on a true story." The camps were real, as well as Piper's dad being based on Pastor Emery "Andy" Andrews, who did move from his home/church to go be with his interned church goers. And I am off to find a book on Pastor Andrews.