We Are Not Free
Author: Traci Chee
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction
Imprint: HMH Books for Young Readers
On-Sale: September 1, 2020
Pages: 400 pages
“All around me, my friends are talking, joking, laughing. Outside is the camp, the barbed wire, the guard towers, the city, the country that hates us.
We are not free.
But we are not alone.”
From New York Times best-selling and acclaimed author Traci Chee comes We Are Not Free, the collective account of a tight-knit group of young Nisei, second-generation Japanese American citizens, whose lives are irrevocably changed by the mass U.S. incarcerations of World War II.
Fourteen teens who have grown up together in Japantown, San Francisco.
Fourteen teens who form a community and a family, as interconnected as they are conflicted.
Fourteen teens whose lives are turned upside down when over 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry are removed from their homes and forced into desolate incarceration camps.
In a world that seems determined to hate them, these young Nisei must rally together as racism and injustice threaten to pull them apart.
About The Author
Traci Chee is an author of YA fiction. An all-around word geek, she loves book arts and art books, poetry and paper crafts, though she also dabbles at bonsai gardening, egg painting, and hosting potluck game nights for family and friends. She studied literature and creative writing at UC Santa Cruz and earned a master of arts degree from San Francisco State University. Traci grew up in a small town with more cows than people, and now feels most at home in the mountains, scaling switchbacks and happening upon hidden highland lakes. She lives in California with her fast-fast dog.
Much thanks to Colored Pages Book Tours for sending me a copy for review and for inviting me to be a part of this tour. This review is voluntary and opinions are fully my own. Also, all quotes are taken from the ARC and may or may not appear in the final published copy.
An Eye-Opening Read About Japanese-American History
Content Warning: Internment Camps, Racism, Racialprejudice, Abuse, Imprisonment, Hate Crimes, Death, Violence
As a Filipino, discussions on World War II history is not something new to me. And the thing is, both the USA and Japan colonialized our country – which is why Filipinos have this twisted mentality of seeing both of these nations as saviors. Anyway, that’s another story.
To be honest, I only know about WWII stories on our country – and I have no idea of its global implications. So, when I received an email for Colored Pages about this book that discusses World War II impact on Japan, and Japanese-American, in particular, I couldn’t resist signing up.
Please note though that I am not an #ownvoices reviewer for this one, as I am unfamiliar with the internment caps and I am not a Japanese, too.
Racism in America
We Are Not Free tells the story of Japanese-Americans living in the US during the time of the war. One of the first things you will notice at the first few pages is the blatant racism all Asians in the US face at this time. Especially for East Asians, they have to face death threats just for their looks and the onslaught of slurs just by walking down the street.
And the thing is, decades after, racism is still here – and I think that’s the worst thing.
Chilling and Heart-breaking at the Same Time
We Are Not Free is one great emotional ride and I am still in awe at how inhumane life can be at the time of the war. I never knew that internment camps existed and I didn’t know that they were tagged as “enemy aliens” with the worst treatments ever.
The ambiance of the book even pushed the somber mood even further and the way Traci Chee weaves words will really tug at your heartstrings. There are so many heartbreaking moments in this book – I don’t want to spoil anything, JUST READ IT. Trust me.
Multiple POVs? Here’s 14!
Traci Chee delivered this story, not through one person’s eyes, but from 14 different people! What I loved about this is that we see how teens handled all of these, especially a major life change, not being able to continue studying, and being away from some of their loved ones.
The highlight of the story is also on this group of friends, with each one having a personality that shines through the pages. As much as I was trying to separate myself a little from each of them, because I was so scared of being too attached, these young adults captured my heart and I will carry their stories for the rest of my life.
Final Thoughts: READ IT NOW
There’s so many things I want to say but I can’t really find the words. I guess, what I want to end this with is buy this book. Read it. And tell other to do so, too.
My Book Rating Breakdown
Final Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4.63/5)
My Favorite Quotes
I keep to myself. I mind my own business. I’m a good Japanese. I’m a good American. But that won’t be enough, will it? To keep me here? To make them leave me alone?Kindle Loc 264
Decent people don’t kick out other decent people, so if we’re decent, they can’t be decent.Kindle Loc 371
We could do everything right, and they’d still think we’re dangerous.Kindle Loc 58
And I get it finally. Gaman. The ability to hold your pain and bitterness inside you and not let them destroy you. To make something beautiful through your anger and , or with your anger, and neither erase it nor let it define you. To suffer. And to rage. And to persevere.Kindle Loc 534