17 Aug / My Nest of Silence by Matt Faulkner [in Booklist]
After learning of Europe’s Nazi concentration camps as a child, Matt Faulkner also discovered how Americans of Japanese descent were unjustly imprisoned during WWII, a revelation made more urgent because of family connections: his great-aunt Adeline; her daughter, Mary; and Mary’s children were held at Manzanar Relocation Center because Mary’s father was Japanese. Their experience of removal and incarceration inspired Faulkner’s Gaijin (2014); his latest is an impressively fuller account of the Japanese American WWII experience, spotlighting the Asai family held at Manzanar.
Ichiro and Aki (Ichiro was Adeline’s husband’s name) are the parents of Mak and Mari (clearly a nod to Mary). Despite Ichiro’s protestations, Mak enlists and eventually serves on the “Go for Broke” battalion, the 100th/442nd that became the most decorated unit in U.S. military history. Until Mak returns, Mari takes a vow of silence, facing her own fearful battles in camp.
Faulkner presents an ingenious hybrid format, assigning the prose chapters to Mari, who writes what she can’t say, while the graphic panels belong to Mak. Faulkner stupendously draws Mak’s experiences as a Japanese American soldier (much of the army’s dismissive, racist behaviors are on full display), and the revealing panels make for a cutting contrast to Mak’s protectively reassuring letters to Mari.
Deftly combining the personal and historical, Faulkner alchemizes his extended family’s past into magnificent, essential testimony.
Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult