Thin Wood Walls (book)
Creators: David Patneaude
Book cover. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin
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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.
The story is told in the first person voice of Joseph Hanada, eleven years old when the war starts. He lives in the White River Valley in Washington state, where his family leases a farm, with his Issei parents, his paternal grandmother, and his sixteen-year-old brother Mike. He and his best friend, Ray O'Brien, are inseparable, enjoying basketball and other activities. In Part 1 of the book, the attack on Pearl Harbor changes everything, as the Hanadas and other Japanese American families face a largely hostile local population. Soon, Joe's father Tomio is taken away by the FBI and sent to internment camps in Montana and New Mexico, and the rest of the family endures the inevitable march toward forced removal. Their sufferings are mitigated to some degree by the kindness of the O'Briens—who store some of the Hanadas' possessions—and the Hanadas' kindly landlords, the Spooners. Part Two of the book follows the Hanadas to Tule Lake, where they adjust to their new reality of life behind barbed wire. A friendly guard, Sandy, befriends the boys, while hints of romance between Joe and Mae Mizuno, a girl from his old school, spark. We follow the Hanadas through the loyalty questionnaire episode and the transfer of "no-nos" to Tule Lake; when Nisei are allowed to join the army, Mike vows to join as soon as he turns eighteen. The third and final section of the book begins with Mike's enlistment and the family's efforts to leave Tule Lake.
Author David Patneaude (1944– ) was born in Minnesota, but raised in Seattle and has lived in Washington throughout his life except for a stint in the navy during the Vietnam War. He has published ten books for children since 1993, all fiction, with many described as "creepy, suspenseful tales." Thin Wood Walls was his first foray into historical fiction. According to his website, Patneaude is working on a sequel to This Wood Walls titled Caught in the Wake . 
Thin Wood Walls is well-researched and incorporates a great deal of historical detail about Tule Lake and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team into the storyline. At the same time, there are a few minor historical inaccuracies. In Chapter Six, Patneaude writes that "the Relocation Authority... would be responsible for carrying out Order 9066"; while the War Relocation Authority (WRA), a civilian agency, administered Tule Lake and other concentration camps, the exclusion and removal of Japanese Americans from the West Coast was handled by the army. The Newell Star is cited as the Tule Lake newspaper in 1942–43. At that time, the paper was the Tulean Dispatch ; the Star was the Tule Lake paper after segregation , 1944–46. Mike learns that Nisei would be allowed to join the army in January 1943; this was announced with the formation of the 442nd on February 1, 1943. In Chapter Twelve, Joe's father, then interned in New Mexico in a camp administered by the Justice Department, fills out the loyalty questionnaire; the questionnaire was only required of those held in WRA camps. Finally, in the "Author's Note," Patneaude writes, "For most young men, the only way out of these camps... was by joining the army and fighting for the country that had turned its back on them." While many young men did indeed leave the camps to join the army, far more left to attend college or for jobs located in areas outside of the West Coast restricted area.
- "David Patneaude." Contemporary Authors Online , Detroit: Gale, 2005, accessed via Contemporary Authors Online, Sept. 16, 2016; David Patneaude website, accessed on Sept. 16, 2016 at http://www.patneaude.com/patneaude.com/Welcome.html .
Find in the Digital Library of Japanese American Incarceration
This item has been made freely available in the Digital Library of Japanese American Incarceration , a collaborative project with Internet Archive .
Might also like The Lucky Baseball: My Story in a Japanese-American Internment Camp by Suzanne Lieurance; The Journal of Ben Uchida: Citizen 13559, Mirror Lake Internment Camp, California, 1942 by Barry Denenberg; Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford