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Browse > Genre > Historical Fiction

62 articles

Why She Left Us (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Family – blessing or curse, Motherhood, Power of the past, Role of women
  • Widely available

A 1999 novel by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto that follows the Okada family from the 1920s to the 1990s and includes their incarceration at the Santa Anita Assembly Center and Amache as well as the experiences of two Nisei who serve in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team . The novel is structured as a series of vignettes told from the points of view of four characters. Why She Left Us was honored with an American Book Award in 2000.

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Seki-nin (Duty Bound) (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Convention and rebellion, Displacement, Facing darkness, Family – blessing or curse, Power of tradition
  • Available

Novel by George Nakagawa about a Nisei stranded in Japan during World War II.

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The Issei Prisoners of the San Pedro Internment Center (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Immigrant experience, Injustice, Losing hope, Power and corruption, Will to survive
  • Available

Novel by Stanley N. Kanzaki about Issei internees at the fictional San Pedro Internment Camp in New Mexico.

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Floating Home (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 7-8, Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Facing reality, Growing up – pain or pleasure, Reunion, Working class struggles
  • Widely available

Short story about a family returning to Little Tokyo from Rohwer . When fourteen-year-old Mari returns home with her parents, she expects to go to their old house, but is dismayed when they go to a run down residential hotel instead. Her father explains to her that they had rented the house they had lived in before the war, and they it was now being rented to someone else. Mari decides to walk to the house to take a last look. She finds an African American girl about her age on the swing in front. Initially suspicious, the girl becomes friendlier when Mari tells her why she and her family had to leave and invites her inside.

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Fox Drum Bebop (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Family – blessing or curse, Immigrant experience, Power of words
  • Widely available

Novel by Gene Oishi that tells the saga of the Konos, a Japanese American farming family from coastal California, covering the years 1940 to 1982. Largely based on the author's own life and family, each chapter is a stand alone short story set in a particular time period. Early chapters covering the prewar years and the upheavals of World War II are told from the perspective of different family members, while later chapters covering the postwar years are largely through the perspective of Hiroshi, the character based on the author. Fox Drum Bebop was published by Kaya Press in 2014 and received the 2016 Association for Asian American Studies book award in the Creative Writing: Prose category.

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Tule Lake (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Evils of racism, Family – blessing or curse, Importance of community, Individual versus society
  • Available

Novel by Edward Miyakawa set in the eponymous concentration camp. Tule Lake was likely the first novel by a Japanese American set in one of the World War II concentration camps to be published when it first appeared in 1979. It was also notable for its unflinching portrayal of life in the most repressive of the camps.

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Allegiance (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction, Mystery
  • Emptiness of attaining a false dream, Facing darkness, Injustice, Loss of innocence, Power and corruption
  • Widely available

Historical mystery novel by Kermit Roosevelt set during World War II against the backdrop of the Supreme Court and the Japanese American cases.

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The Harvest of Hate (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Evils of racism, Family – blessing or curse, Loss of innocence, Patriotism – positive side or complications
  • Available

Novel focusing on one Japanese American family's forced removal and incarceration written by a former teacher at Poston . Originally written in 1946, The Harvest of Hate first saw publication forty years later.

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Color of the Sea (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Young Adult, Historical Fiction
  • Coming of age, War - glory, necessity, pain, tragedy
  • Widely available

A coming-of-age novel by first time novelist John Hamamura centering on a Kibei raised in Japan, Hawai'i, and California and that climaxes with his wartime experiences that include arrest, the Military Intelligence Service , and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The book won an Alex Award from the Young Adult Library Services Association in 2007.

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Two Homelands (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Death – inevitable or tragedy, Emptiness of attaining a false dream, Evils of racism, Family – blessing or curse, Heroism – real and perceived, Individual versus society, Nationalism – complications, Patriotism – positive side or complications, Vulnerability of the strong
  • Widely available

Epic three volume novel by best-selling Japanese novelist Toyoko Yamasaki that centers on the identity dilemmas of a Kibei man during and immediately after World War II. Published in Japan in 1983, it was adapted into a popular Japanese television drama the following year. Alarmed by reports that the novel/TV show portrayed Japanese Americans as having split loyalties, Japanese American leaders succeeded in preventing the TV drama from being shown in the continental U.S. In 2007, the University of Hawai'i Press published an English language translation by V. Dixon Morris under the title Two Homelands .

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Paper Wishes (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 3-5, Grades 7-8
  • Grades 3-5
  • Children's, Historical Fiction
  • Communication – verbal and nonverbal, Growing up – pain or pleasure, Lost love, Power of silence
  • Widely available

Children's novel by Lois Sepahban centering on a young girl from Bainbridge Island, Washington , who turns mute when she and her family are uprooted and sent to Manzanar .

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Suitcase Sefton and the American Dream (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 7-8, Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Everlasting love, Family – blessing or curse, Importance of community, Injustice
  • Widely available

Novel by Jay Feldman about a New York Yankees scout who discovers a hot Nisei pitching prospect in an American concentration camp during World War II.

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O Furo (The Bath) (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Beauty of simplicity, Fulfillment, Nature as beauty
  • Available

Short story by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston about an elderly woman in an unspecified American concentration camp during the World War II. Yuki, a seventy-three year old widow, lives with her grandson, Dixon, a separate barracks room away from the rest of the family. When the falling snow reminds her of Japan, she prevails on Dixon to help her build a Japanese style furo , which they accomplish using scrap lumber and a discarded metal drum. Sitting in the tub, she reflects contentedly on her life.

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Chikara!: A Sweeping Novel of Japan and America From 1907 to 1983 (book)

  • Books
  • Historical Fiction
  • Change versus tradition, Coming of age, Death - inevitable or tragedy, Disillusionment and dreams, Displacement, Emptiness of attaining a false dream, Evils of racism, Facing reality, Family - blessing or curse, Forgiveness, Greed as downfall, Fate and free will, Heartbreak of betrayal, Heroism - real and perceived, Immigrant experience, Individual versus society, Inner versus outer strength, Lost honor, Lost love, Nationalism - complications, Patriotism - positive side or complications, Power of the past, Will to survive
  • Available

This work of historical fiction traces the tumultuous rise and fall of the Hoshi family, whose scion, Sataro, takes his wife Itoko and eldest son Noboru to California in 1907 to seek his fortune and restore his family's honor. He leaves his second son Hiroshi behind with family, a decision that marks the inauspicious first step of the tragic transpacific drama that unfolds over the course of the novel.

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Kibei (book)

  • Books
  • Historical Fiction
  • Change versus tradition, Disillusionment and dreams, Displacement, Facing reality, Identity crisis
  • Available

The saga of a Kibei Nisei confronting prejudice and his own conflicted identity as his and his family’s lives are irreparably transformed by the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans.

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The Japanese Lover (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Everlasting love, Evils of racism, Circle of life, Family – blessing or curse, Immigrant experience
  • Widely available

Novel by best-selling Chilean American novelist Isabel Allende, the title character of which is a Nisei man whose story of wartime incarceration is woven into the narrative.

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Best Friends Forever: A World War II Scrapbook (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 3-5, Grades 7-8
  • Grades 3-5, Grades 7-8
  • Children's, Historical Fiction
  • Everlasting love, Family – blessing or curse, Injustice, Rights - individual or societal
  • Widely available

Children's book about the friendship between a German American girl and her forcibly removed Japanese American friend in the form of a scrapbook from the year 1942.

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Hawaii, End of the Rainbow (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Immigrant experience, Injustice, Will to survive, Working class struggles
  • Available

Kazuo Miyamoto (1897–1988) was a Nisei doctor and author who was interned at various incarceration camps for the duration of World War II as a result of the publication of his observations during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). During his incarceration at Sand Island , Miyamoto began writing Hawaii, End of the Rainbow , which took him seventeen years to complete. Although a fictional account of the experiences of Japanese immigrants spanning nearly seventy years from their arrival in the Islands to World War II, it provides key insights from a participant in these important events.

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Woman With a Blue Pencil (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Mystery, Historical Fiction
  • Character – destruction, building up, Communication – verbal and nonverbal, Disillusionment and dreams, Evils of racism, Heroism – real and perceived, Manipulation
  • Widely available

Novel about a pulp mystery novel written by a young Nisei as World War II breaks out, his interactions with a sometimes overzealous editor, and his protest in the form of an unpublished manuscript centering on the Nisei private detective he was forced to remove from the novel.

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Gambling Den (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Coming of age, Disillusionment and dreams, Immigrant experience, Loss of innocence, Role of women, Temptation and destruction
  • No availability

Short story by Akemi Kikumura about a Japanese American family in Lodi, California, on the eve of World War II. Told in the first person voice of fifteen-year-old Peggy Tanaka, the story begins with the Tanaka family's fateful purchase of a restaurant in 1941. The restaurant soon becomes a success as migrant workers are drawn to both Mrs. Tanaka's cooking and the beauty of Ann, Peggy's eighteen-year-old sister. Mr. Tanaka's decision to open a gambling den in back further adds to profits, despite Mrs. Tanaka's disapproval and the necessary kick-backs to a corrupt local policeman. But the Tanakas' lives are soon to be complicated by Ann's romance with a young man of burakumin (Japanese outcaste) origin, a conniving neighbor, and the impending roundup of Japanese Americans after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

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No-No Boy (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Convention and rebellion, Family – blessing or curse, Heroism – real and perceived, Individual versus society, Patriotism – positive side or complications
  • Widely available

In 1956, Nisei writer John Okada wrote No-No Boy , a novel that explored the predicament of a Japanese American World War II conscientious objector, having served time in prison for refusing to serve in the military, who returns home only to face the consequences of his decision. Upon arriving in his former neighborhood, he is met with hostility and despair. He discovers that his mother delusionally believes that Japan has won the war, and his younger brother—ashamed of Ichiro's decision to refuse the draft—abruptly quits high school to join the army himself. In the course of the novel, Ichiro's inner conflict grows to reflect the racial tension and residual anguish following the war and his individual guilt represents the conflict of the country at large.

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Under the Blood Red Sun (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Grades 6-8
  • Historical Fiction, Young Adult
  • Coming of age, Companionship as salvation, Growing up – pain or pleasure, War – glory, necessity, pain, tragedy
  • Widely available

Acclaimed novel for young adults set in the early months of World War II told through the eyes of a teenage Nisei protagonist in Honolulu whose father and grandfather are both interned. The novel was made into a feature film in 2014. It was followed by a sequel, House of the Red Fish , in 2006.

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Eyes of the Emperor (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12
  • Grades 6-8
  • Historical Fiction, Young Adult
  • Evils of racism, Patriotism – positive side or complications, Self-preservation, War – glory, necessity, pain, tragedy
  • Widely available

Historical novel aimed at middle school readers based on the true story of Nisei solders from Hawai'i who were made to serve as "bait" in a program that attempted to train dogs to recognize and attack the supposed distinctive smell of "Japanese" during World War II.

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Private Life (book)

  • Books
  • Historical Fiction
  • Facing reality, Identity crisis, Female roles, Disillusionment and dreams
  • Available

A middle-aged white woman recounts her friendship with a Japanese American family she first meets through personal tragedy; the injustice they experience, partly as a result of her own husband, leads her to a personal awakening.

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A Place Where Sunflowers Grow (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 1-2, Grades 3-5
  • Grades 1-2
  • Children's, Historical Fiction
  • Darkness and light, Empowerment, Expression through art, Importance of community, Overcoming – fear, weakness, vice
  • Widely available

Children's picture book by Amy Lee-Tai and illustrated by Felicia Hoshino about Mari, a young Japanese American girl in Topaz , an American concentration camp during World War II. As the book begins, she plants sunflower seeds in the desert soil, hoping they will grow like the sunflowers in their old backyard. She recalls their prewar home, where she lived with her older brother and artist parents. At Topaz, she goes with her father to the art school he started. Initially unable to draw anything in the children's class, she slowly starts to find things to draw with the help of a supportive teacher, her father, and her new friend Aiko. After drawing a picture of her barrack with the sunflowers growing tall in front, she returns home to find little sunflower seedlings, giving her hope for the future. A final page provides biographies of the author and illustrator and …

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