The War Outside (book)
Creators: Monica Hesse
Young adult novel by Monica Hesse that tells a complex story of a friendship between two teenage girls, one Japanese American and one German American, in the Crystal City internment camp in the fall of 1944.
Seventeen year old Haruko Tanaka arrives at Crystal City in August 1944 with her younger sister and mother to join her interned father. The family had lived in Denver prior to the war, where her father worked at a nice hotel. Her older brother Kenichi was in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team . Once in Crystal City, she forms an odd friendship with sixteen-year-old Margot Krukow, whose family had been Iowa farmers. Her father had been taken in for attending a pro-Nazi meeting. While most German American children attend a school intended to prepare them for Germany, her relatively liberal parents allow her to attend the Federal School, where she is the only German American in her age group among Japanese American students. Margot and Haruko soon begin meeting after school in an ice house to do homework and talk, sharing secrets and resentments they can't talk to anyone else about. They dream of leaving together and having their own apartment in San Antonio, the closest major city. But as tensions close in on each of their families, each is forced to make a difficult choice about the nature of their friendship. Chapters are told from either Haruko or Margot's perspectives; some include italicized remarks that seem to come from an older Haruko or Margot looking back. An Author's Note provides background on Crystal City and wartime incarceration in general while also noting the historical liberties taken in the novel.
Author Hesse is a feature writer from the Washington Post and the author of Girl in the Blue Coat (2016), a young adult novel set in German-occupied Amsterdam during WWII that won the 2017 Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best Young Adult Novel, and American Fire (2017), on the mysteries behind a small town arsonist. She learned of Crystal City when she came across a picture of a Nisei prom queen at the camp high school while doing research for a prior book and was driven to learn more about the camp and its internees, particularly the teenagers imprisoned there with their families.
Kirkus Reviews , June 24, 2018. ["Hesse... painstakingly researched accounts from various archival records to convey the rich and complex emotions surrounding a shameful episode of injustice in American history, during which human beings were involuntarily and irrevocably changed through the choices of others."]
Memmott, Carol. " The Tragic Timeliness of a Novel about a World War II Internment Camp ." Washington Post , Sept. 20, 2018. ["Hesse, who writes about gender issues for The Washington Post , isn’t the first to set a novel in the internment camps, but no one, to my knowledge, has ever written with so much sensitivity about the fraught relationship between two imprisoned teens caught up in a drama for which neither is responsible."]
Publishers Weekly , July 9, 2019. ["Hesse... draws Margot and Haruko realistically and sympathetically, bolstered by research into WWII internment camps, in a moving book that successfully describes an unjust aspect of U.S. history."]