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A Place to Belong (book)

Book cover. Courtesy of Atheneum
View in the Densho Encyclopedia

Young adult novel by Cynthia Kadohata that tells the story of a Japanese American family's experience in postwar Japan from the perspective of an adolescent female protagonist.

A Place to Belong centers on the story Tachibana family told through the eyes of twelve-year-old Hanako in the year after the end of World War II. Before the war, they had run a successful restaurant in Gardena, California, but when they are caught up in the mass forced removal and incarceration of all West Coast Japanese Americans, they lose everything and end up in an American concentration camp. There, Hanako's father gives a conditional answer on the loyalty questionnaire , which is enough to get the family sent to Tule Lake . He is branded a troublemaker, is separately interned, and decides that the family will go to Japan where they will live with his parents who are peasant farmers outside of Hiroshima. The novel begins with their voyage to Japan and follows their difficult life there. While Hanako and her five-year-old brother Akira face hunger, desperate orphan children, and the difficulties of learning a new language and culture, they are buoyed by their grandparents' love and their parents' devotion to them. But the family has to face a difficult decision as to what the best path for their future will be.

While the novel takes place entirely after the war, it includes many references to life in the concentration camps. The family goes first to an unspecified assembly center , then to Jerome , prior to Tule Lake. The family is later helped by lawyer Wayne Collins , to whom the book is dedicated.

Author Cynthia Kadohata has written two prior books with adolescent Japanese American female protagonists there were set in the postwar period, The Floating World (1989) and the young adult novel Kira Kira (2004). Her 2006 young adult novel Weedflower was mostly set in Poston .

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

Might also like Looking Like the Enemy: My Story of Imprisonment in Japanese-American Internment Camps, Young Reader's Edition by Mary Matsuda Gruenewald; The Invisible Thread by Yoshiko Uchida; The War Outside by Monica Hesse


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Find in the Digital Library of Japanese American Incarceration

A Place to Belong

This item has been made freely available in the Digital Library of Japanese American Incarceration , a collaborative project with Internet Archive .

Media Details
Author Cynthia Kadohata
Illustrator Julia Kuo
Pages 405
Publication Date 2019


Kirkus Reviews , Apr. 1, 2019. [" Superb characterization and an evocative sense of place elevate this story that is at once specific to the experiences of Japanese-American expatriates and yet echoes those of many others."]

Publishers Weekly ["The push-pull between humanity’s best and worst and between acceptance and resistance are at the heart of this powerful and joyful work."]

Salva, Darla. School Library Journal 65.4 (May 2019), 93. ["In her trademark style, Kadohata unfurls the complex web of the girl's inner thoughts in a concise yet cutting third-person narrative."]