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Browse > Genre > Historical Fiction

62 articles

Snapshot, 1944 (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Power of silence, Power of the past, Wisdom of experience
  • Limited availability

Short story by David Mas Masumoto told in the first person voice of a Sansei young adult reflecting on the meaning of an old snapshot of his father's family taken at Gila River in 1944. The occasion is the funeral of his Uncle George, killed as an American soldier in the war. In the photo, the narrator's grandfather holds a flag and his grandmother holds a picture of George, while his father and aunts and uncles stand uneasily to the side. The narrator writes in turn about the postwar fates of his grandfather, who died before he was born; his grandmother, who lives with the family, but suffers from dementia; and his father, who struggled to buy a farm after the war and now grows raisins and other crops on eighty acres. Each in his her own way remains as silent to the narrator as in the photograph.

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House of the Red Fish (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Grades 7-8
  • Historical Fiction, Young Adult
  • Coming of age, Empowerment, Good versus bad, Importance of community
  • Widely available

Young adult novel by Graham Salisbury about a Nisei teenager in wartime Honolulu who struggles to bring up the sunken fishing boat of his interned father. It is a sequel to the popular 1994 novel Under the Blood-Red Sun.

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Mendez v. Westminster: For All the Children (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 3-5
  • Grades 3-5
  • Children's, Historical Fiction
  • Change versus tradition, Injustice, Rights - individual or societal
  • Limited availability

Children's picture book that tells in simplified form the story of the landmark Mendez case that ultimately ended segregated schools in California. The story is told through the perspective of Sylvia Mendez who is eight years old in 1943. Having rented the farm of Munemitsu family, who had been forcibly removed to concentration camps, they were new to Westminster, California. When she and her brothers are prohibited from attending the same school as her cousins (who can pass as "white") and must attend the inferior school for those of Mexican, African or Asian ancestry, her family decides to sue. With the help of lawyer David C. Marcus—and support from various organizations including the Japanese American Citizens League—the suit proves successful, ending segregation in the state. A brief epilogue notes the long-term impact of the case and the fate of Sylvia and others involved in it.

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The Fences Between Us: The Diary of Piper Davis (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 3-5, Grades 7-8
  • Grades 3-5, Grades 7-8
  • Children's, Historical Fiction
  • Coming of age, Injustice, Loss of innocence
  • Widely available

Novel for elementary and middle schoolers about a young white teenage girl's experience of World War II including the Japanese American removal and incarceration told in the form of a diary. The Fences Between Us is part of the Dear America series, all of which are written in the form of diaries by young women/girls from various key moments in U.S. history.

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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 some ...

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Best Friends Forever: A World 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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Burma Rifles: A Story of Merrill's Marauders (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 7-8, Grades 9-12
  • Grades 7-8, Grades 9-12
  • Historical Fiction, Children's
  • Heroism – real and perceived, Injustice, Vulnerability of the strong, War – glory, necessity, pain, tragedy
  • Limited availability

Book for young readers by Frank Bonham centering on a Nisei intelligence soldier in Burma during World War II. Published in 1960, it is among the first children's books to depict the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans.

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Dust of Eden (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 7-8, Grades 9-12
  • Grades 7-8
  • Children's, Historical Fiction
  • Coming of age, Injustice
  • Widely available

Acclaimed children's book in verse about the wartime incarceration experience of a Japanese American family told from the perspective of a middle-school aged girl.

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Thin Wood Walls (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 7-8, Grades 9-12
  • Grades 7-8
  • Children's, Historical Fiction
  • Coming of age, Evils of racism, Loss of innocence, War – glory, necessity, pain, tragedy
  • Widely available

Children's book by David Patneaude that follows a Japanese American boy and his family as they are forcibly removed from their Washington state home and sent to the Tule Lake concentration camp during World War II.

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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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Memories of Pop (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Family – blessing or curse, Forgiveness
  • No availability

Short story by Jiro Saito about a young college dropout Sansei returning home to San Diego for the funeral of his estranged father. Written in the first person voice of Mas Mayeda, it is set in around 1960. As the story begins, Mas gets a call from his sister Rose informing him of their father's death. Disowned by his father after dropping out of UC Berkeley's engineering program to become a writer, Mas had not seen the family in three years. Upon his return, Rose tells him that their father, though stubborn, indicated that he wanted Mas to return. Before the funeral, Mas sees old family photos that tell their story: his parents' wedding in 1927 (his Issei father married a Nisei woman from San Diego); a successful farm; his father becoming a community leader; his father's subsequent arrest after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the family's removal and ...

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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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Woman from Hiroshima (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Immigrant experience, Motherhood, Overcoming – fear, weakness, vice, Wisdom of experience
  • Available

Novel by Toshio Mori written in the first-person voice of an Issei woman telling her life story to two grandchildren shortly after World War II.

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After the Bloom (book)

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

Novel by Japanese Canadian author Leslie Shimotakahara about the sudden disappearance of a Nisei woman in Toronto and her Sansei daughter's search for her and her own past.

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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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The Summer of '43 (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Evils of racism, Individual versus society, Working class struggles
  • Limited availability

Short story centering on Akira Koyama, a Nisei man who has left an unspecified concentration camp to attend college in Utah. There, he stubbornly tries to find a summer job in the face of rampant discrimination. After being turned down for a draftsman position because of his ancestry, he visits a laundry owned by an acquaintance's family in search of other leads. Meanwhile, Dale, a white navy veteran and one of his college roommates, suffers from stomach pains that resemble appendicitis. Akira accompanies him to the hospital and waits as Dale has successful surgery. After a conversation with the doctor, Akira is offered a job at the hospital.

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Bridge of Scarlet Leaves (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Romance, Historical Fiction
  • Communication – verbal and nonverbal, Everlasting love, Family – blessing or curse, Heroism – real and perceived, Love and sacrifice
  • Widely available

Novel by Kristina McMorris that centers on an interracial romance between a white woman and a Nisei man during World War II.

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Otoko (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Disillusionment and dreams, Growing up – pain or pleasure, Immigrant experience, Loss of innocence, Role of men, Vulnerability of the meek
  • Widely available

Short story by Wakako Yamauchi centering on a Nisei brother and sister who recall their father and their family's prewar and wartime hardships while listening to Japanese folksongs. On the longest day of the year one summer, Kiyo visits his sister, the narrator, bringing a record of Japanese children's songs. The act of listening to the songs triggers memories of their early years. Once relatively prosperous, their fortunes turn dire quickly when their father loses his job. He becomes a tenant farmer, but can't make enough to support the family. Kiyo recalls a time when he went with his father to visit a friend, Kiyo thinks, to ask to borrow money. The narrator recalls working as a "school girl" with a white family for a few months, returning to find her family living in a tent, her little sister's teeth rotting, and her father suffering from a stomach ailment. Later, ...

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American Dreams (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 3-5
  • Grades 3-5
  • Historical Fiction, Children's
  • Evils of racism, Coming of age, Injustice, Growing up – pain or pleasure
  • Available

Chapter book for children about two eleven-year-old girls in Hollywood, one white and one Japanese American, in the weeks just before and just after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

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Gardens of Hope (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Companionship as salvation, Everlasting love, Evils of racism, Loss of innocence, Self-awareness
  • Widely available

Novel about the short but life changing romance between a young white man and a Nisei man during World War II. The story begins in 2004, as the elderly Jack Henry asks his nephew to drive him to the Manzanar National Historic Site. On the way, he tells the nephew the story of his connection to the place. As the story begins in Los Angeles the fall of 1942, Jack seems to have everything: a loving family, a smart and attractive fiancée, and good prospects for a career as a teacher. However as a closeted gay man, he is confused and unhappy. Drawn to Pershing Park downtown, he has a series of furtive sexual encounters with other men before meeting Hiro, a handsome young Nisei. Their affair is immediately different and deeper than the others. When the outbreak of war separates them, Jack impulsively decides to become a teacher at ...

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The Red Kimono (book)

  • Books
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Coming of age, Evils of racism, Overcoming – fear, weakness, vice, Will to survive
  • Widely available

Novel that tells parallel stories of a Japanese American family that is uprooted from their Berkeley, California, home and sent to American concentration camps during World War II, and a young African American man who goes to prison for the beating death of that family's patriarch.

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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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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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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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Kai's Mother (short story)

  • Short Stories
  • Grades 9-12, Adult
  • Historical Fiction
  • Immigrant experience, Motherhood, Will to survive, Wisdom of experience
  • Available

Short story by Gretel Ehrlich told in the first person voice of an Issei woman as she rides the train back to California from Heart Mountain at war's end. The characters in the story were introduced in Ehrlich's earlier novel Heart Mountain.

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