Thirteen-year-old Piper Davis’s brother, Hank, leaves for boot camp, to see the world via the Navy. Their older sister is in college. Their father is a pastor in the part of Seattle called Japantown. Piper’s biggest worries are whether her father will let her wear Tangee lipstick, and whether her crush on Bud will be returned. Despite Reverend Davis’s church activities, Piper is semi-oblivious to her neighborhood’s biases toward the Japanese.
Then Pearl Harbor is bombed. America enters the war. Japanese communities are evacuated. Families are sent to camps. When the families in Seattle’s Japantown are sent to the Minidoka War Relocation Center in Eden, Idaho, Piper’s father gets government permission to follow his congregation and remain their pastor at the new center.
Piper’s diary entries from 1941 to 1943 reflect her growing maturity. Worries for Hank’s safety in the Pacific mingle with her moral outrage at the treatment of Japanese families. With her camera, Piper becomes a witnesses to their steady dignity in the face of injustice. Tragedies and triumphs interweave throughout this book. Like Piper’s camera, Larson captures a shameful episode in our nation’s history.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Varadan