How can someone be loyal to a country that has cast him out? How can love survive when all the odds stand against it? How can goodness prevail when those fighting for freedom also violate the virtue they've gone to war to protect?
In 1941, Evalina Cassano is an Italian American teenager living in San Francisco. Her family owns a very successful restaurant and she has a bright future ahead of her after being accepted to attend Berkley. But the heart wants what the heart wants and hers belongs to a young Japanese American boy named Taichi Hamasaki, the son of the produce farmers that help supply her parents’ restaurant. The relationship is difficult enough as it is, but on December 7th, the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor and overnight America develops an anti-Japanese sentiment. As the days continue, his family volunteers to go to Manzanar Internment Camp for the duration of the war. Communicating via letters, they at first seem sure their love will survive the separation. But Taichi's life in the camp is far from okay.
I found it tremendously moving to see how Taichi, his family, and the other brave Japanese families worked to maintain a sense of dignity and order and community in the midst of terribly heartbreaking conditions. Within These Lines deals with many things, but mainly daily life in internment camps. I knew a little bit of what life was like in internment camps during this time, but this book shines a light on the living conditions, the day-to-day activities, and the conflicting beliefs of the interned people throughout the camp. It was incredibly heartbreaking and often hard to read at times. But very important. This is one of the only times I’ve seen books approach this topic so closely and so raw and near to the matter, and I love that the book wasn’t shrouded in depression and darkness, but rather in hope – even though the situation was full of despair.
This quote from the book resonated with me, "As the brilliant sunset cools to gray, I vow my anger over blatant discrimination will not cool. As these rocks stay steady through season changes and time, so I will remain steady. I will not be silent. I will not let this go.” Stories like this remind me not to judge neighbors based on fear and assumptions. Stories like this inspire me to be courageously compassionate, fiercely loyal, and graciously determined. And stories like this remind me that holding to one's convictions and moral compass is always the right course of action, even when your pride is bruised and your loyalty tested.
-- Candace --
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