I was all sorts of excited when I saw that Dear America was going to be publishing more fictional diaries of girls from different time periods in America. I loved the Dear America series. I had practically all of them. And a couple of the boy equivalents, My America, which I don't think was as popular.
Piper Davis is the daughter of a minister in Seattle, Washington during 1941. Her father's congregation is all from Japantown, and while Piper spends Sundays with those of Japanese descent, her close friends are her school friends, who are all white, as she is.
Piper's beloved brother, Hank, has just joined the navy and has been stationed in Hawaii. You can probably see where this is going. On December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor is attacked, and although Piper's brother is unharmed, America is now involved in WWII, and everything changes.
People begin to turn on the Japanese citizens, even those who were born in America. Piper is conflicted, she's worried about her brother and would do anything to protect him, but it doesn't seem right to mistreat the Japanese-American people. When all people of Japanese descent are deported to camps, Piper's father decides to follow his congregation, taking Piper with him.
So. My main question is, why wasn't this from a Japanese-American girl's point of view? I'm not saying Piper's story as a minister's daughter wasn't interesting. And she did a lot of thinking about what was right and wrong, and seeing how people treated her father and thought of him as a traitor because he "sympathized with the Japs." However, doesn't this seem like an excellent opportunity for a kid who probably doesn't get to see her face on the cover of a lot of books see this book and say, "Look! That's me! This is my story!" Instead, she gets to see her story told by a white girl.
Piper talks about how awful the camps are, and how she can't imagine living there. How she tries to wait until she goes home to use the bathroom because the latrines are disgusting and have no privacy. Wouldn't it be good to hear from the kid who didn't have a choice? Who had to use that bathroom, who lived in the cold because the camps weren't ready and the rooms didn't have stoves, and didn't go to school for months because there wasn't one? What about her story? I would have liked to hear about her. Piper's Japanese friend, Betty, expresses her fears and frustrations a few times, but I would have preferred if the whole diary was hers instead of Pipers.
It just felt like an odd choice.
Besides that, it was a Dear America book as I always loved. Hearing about historical events through the perspective of a girl just like you and me, while also getting a picture of what was expected of girls and what life was like during that time period.
The Diary of Piper Davis: The Fences Between Us is available in September.