Review: The Fences Between Us

The Fences Between Us: The Diary of Piper Davis
Kirby Larson
Historical
Ages 9-12
320 pages

Thirteen-year-old Piper Davis lives in Seattle, Washington, in 1941.  Her father is head of the local Japanese Baptist Church and her mother died when she was a baby.  The biggest concern in her life is that her adored older brother Hank has enlisted in the navy.  His assignment after boot camp?  Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  His ship?  The USS Arizona.  The date? November, 1941.

That’ll hook you into a story pretty darn quick.

Author Kirby Larson starts there and expertly pulls the reader into Piper’s story.  I was conscious of real anxiety as I read Piper’s November diary entries.  She writes about the boy she likes, Bud Greene, about her best friend Trixie, and her older sister Margie.  She writes about corresponding with Hank.  All the while, we draw closer to December.

In the interest of keeping this review free of spoilers, I’ll have to skip ahead.  The US is now at war with Japan.  Piper, who’s grown up near Seattle’s Japantown, watches with confusion as people act with hatred, anger and, at times, violence toward Japanese-Americans she’s known all her life.  She receives “Jap lover” notes on her locker.  Her father is hounded for trying to help the Japanese.

Then begins the evacuation of those of Japanese ancestry to military holding centers known as assembly camps, and then months later to relocation centers in different states.  The conditions are primitive, to say the least.

With the Japanese gone, Piper’s father has no congregation.  He spends his time trying to get his denomination’s leaders to do more for the Japanese.  The leaders approve Pastor Davis’s plan, which means he and Piper are moving to Minidoka War Relocation Center in Eden, Idaho.  Needless to say, Piper reacts to this news as any young teenager might.  She stops speaking to him.  But to Idaho they go and there Piper has experiences that change her life.

The Fences Between Us is a compelling, educational read that I highly recommend.  It left me wondering if I would’ve reacted any differently than the majority of Americans overcome by fear and prejudice.  Not a comfortable feeling.

Join us on Wednesday for the interview with Kirby Larson.  There’ll be a contest on Friday to win an ARC (Advance Reading Copy) of The Fences Between Us.

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