My Nest of Silence

S. & S./Atheneum. Oct. 2022. 384p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781534477629.
Gr 4-6–It’s 1944, World War II is raging on, and in the wake of the attacks on Pearl Harbor, Mari and her family have been interned at Manzanar War Relocation Center for over a year because they are Japanese American. When Mari’s brother and best friend Mak turns 18, he joins the U.S. Army, devastating Mari and infuriating his father. Frequently described as “abnormal,” Mari takes a vow of silence until either the war ends, or Mak comes home. While her brother is away, Mari tells readers her story through a first-person narrative. She shares her thoughts on her neighbors like the Clucking Sisters and Oba-Chan Yuki and describes daily life in the camp, from art classes with other camp children to lending a helping hand at Manzanar’s orphanage. The most important part of Mari’s day is whenever she gets the chance to draw. Drawing is her passion, something she can do when the world doesn’t make sense and it’s a way to relate to others. While away, Mak writes often, regaling her with tales from bootcamp and later on the European front. However, readers catch a glimpse into the reality of Mak’s life as a soldier through graphic novel interludes, where black-and-white comic panels bring his true experiences to life. Assigned to an all–Japanese American battalion, he finds every aspect of his enlisting informed by prejudice and discrimination. A combination of narrative fiction and graphic novel, this hybrid delivery of a brave story depicts the Japanese American experience during World War II and will be a hit with reluctant readers.
VERDICT At times heartbreaking and other times hopeful, this story of the power of family and ugliness of hate is a first purchase for any library and a must-read for students who enjoy historical fiction or graphic novels.

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