Friday, November 06, 2015

Gaijin: An American Prisoner of War

Gaijin: An American Prisoner of War
A graphic novel by Matt Faulkner

Imagine being an American teenager growing up with not much doubts about your place in society, having aspirations to realize the typical American dream. And then, picture the world turning upside down with World War II, and you realize you don't belong anywhere anymore, except this deplorable internment camp, simply because you are half-Japanese, your father happens to be from Japan, even though you are an American citizen by birth.

That's what happens to 13-year-old Koji Miyamoto, who is suddenly thrown into a chaotic environment in Japanese internment camp after Pearl Harbor. His father is missing and his mother is trying to do her best to keep them together. He struggles with finding his own identity in the midst of being bullied by other teens at the camp, and not having anyone to guide him through this troubling times. Gaijin is a term meaning outsider/foreigner, used in a not very complimentary manner, meant to isolate and ostracize.

However much we want to cringe and sweep it under the rug and pretend everything's fine, racism exists even today. The plight of Japanese Americans during this time period is quite heart-wrenching.

Bright and bold illustrations bring out the emotional struggles Koji goes through, especially since teenage years are tough to deal with anyway without added stress. His anger and his irrational response to his mom's choices to keep them together are depicted with full impact in the graphics. Koji says some cruel words to his mother and her relationship with the men in the camp. He does find a kindly father-figure who helps him see reason and not fall into the gang that could destroy his life.

Best suited for older kids due to the subject matter, this graphic novel is based on a true story involving the author Matt Faulkner's great-aunt, which did not end in a happily-ever-after fashion. Just enough background context is woven into the story to put things in perspective for the young readers of today who may not be familiar with this dark part of American history.

Read More from Matt Faulkner on his graphic novel, Gaijin.

More information about the book

[image source: Disney Hyperion]

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