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Missing in Action (book)

Creators: Dean Hughes

A part-Navajo teenager moves with his mother to her hometown of Delta, Utah, and his struggle to find his own identity is aided by his friendship with Ken, a Japanese American teenager, who refuses to allow his family's incarceration at nearby Topaz defeat his spirit.


The novel opens in Delta, a small town in central Utah. Jay, a part-Navajo teenager who has just moved with his mother from Salt Lake City, comes across a group of neighborhood boys playing baseball. They are curious about him, especially when they find out his grandfather is a well-known and respected shopkeeper and leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS Church, or Mormon Church) in town. Jay is ambivalent about his identity and his father, who is missing in action in World War II. The boys, who assume Jay is part Native American, call him Chief, something that Jay dislikes but goes along with nonetheless.

Jay’s grandfather hires a Japanese American teenager named Ken, whose family is incarcerated at nearby Topaz, to do work on his property, and makes Jay work with him. Jay hears from other people in the town that the Japanese Americans should not be trusted. Jay is reluctant to let people know how much time he spends with Ken because he does not want to be associated with yet another marginalized group. As he spends more time with Ken, and Ken teaches him how to be a better baseball pitcher, he not only enjoys his company but he also admires his confidence and resilience despite the discrimination he faces.

Jay and Ken organize a baseball game between Jay’s group of friends and a team Ken coaches at Topaz. Jay comes to terms with the reality of who his father was, and accepts that he is probably dead. He also learns to be proud of who he is and stand up for himself, like Ken does. Ken enlists in the army.

Author Background

Dean Hughes is a prolific author who has published over one hundred books covering a range of topics for all reading levels.


Missing in Action was positively reviewed, receiving praise for its characters and plot and willingness to address challenging issues. [1] Some reviewers did note that it was "uneven," with one reviewer concluding that "Although serious issues of Native American prejudice, family violence, Japanese-American internment, and homophobia are raised, the story ends too idealistically and neatly." [2]

Authored by Emily Anderson


  1. Spencer Korson, Library Media Connection (May/June 2010): 74; Jennifer Schultz, School Library Journal (March 2010): 160.
  2. Jennifer Schultz, School Library Journal (March 2010): 160.
Borrow/Download from Internet Archive

Find in the Digital Library of Japanese American Incarceration

Missing in Action

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

Might also like Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata; Journey to Topaz by Yoshiko Uchida; " Suitcase Sefton and the American Dream by Jay Feldman

Media Details
Author Dean Hughes
Pages 222
Publication Date 2010


Bush, Elizabeth. Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books , 63.8 (Apr 2010): 338-39.

Korson, Spencer. Library Media Connection , May/June 2010, 74.

O'Malley, Anne. Booklist , Feb 15, 2001, 71.

Schultz, Jennifer. School Library Journal , March 2010, 160.