Friday, 1 October 2010

Review: The Fences Between Us

Dear Blog,

This will have to be a pretty short review,  seeing as my time is of the essence, but anyway-

Summary (from Goodreads): Thirteen-year-old Piper Davis records in her diary her experiences beginning in December 1941 when her brother joins the Navy, the United States goes to war, she attempts to document her life through photography, and her father--the pastor for a Japanese Baptist Church in Seattle--follows his congregants to an Idaho internment camp, taking her along with him. Includes historical notes.

Review: When I first heard about the relaunch I was like "ohymword ohmyword new Dear America books MUST PRE-ORDER NOW." Alas I couldn't pre-order it, and ended up spending a fortune on postage trying to get to it.

Piper, the protagonist, was pretty likeable. She seemed to sound very much like a thirteen-year-old; I think that sometimes when people write historical fiction, they can forget that the main character is a child, and how to write from their way at looking at the world. I guess (nay, know) that Kirby Larson isn't thirteen, but Piper's voice really seems clear and sort of shines through. Plus, she's funny and thoughtful and considerate in turn, kind, but with suitable elements of selfishness to give her flaws and stop her seeming overly perfect.

The supporting characters are all likeable in their various ways; Betty Sato was a particularly interesting, if only for the circumstances she was in, and Bud made suitable material for Piper's first boyfriend.
Piper talks a lot in her journal about her older brother Hank, serving in the navy and at Pearl Harbour at the time of the infamous Japanese bombing. Yet for a lot of the book he himself remains a mystery, only appearing once or twice to visit Piper and her father, and only for a few days. So it was quite hard to really relate to Piper and hope for his safe return if I didn't know him, or read about him anyway.

I can't help but think, though, that for all its interesting subject matter, The Fences Between Us would have been even more fascinating/effective if it had been written from the point of a Japanese-American incarceree in Minidoka. I mean, it's all very well that Piper goes to school there and such, but it's not the real insight into an internment camp that you might get from the point of view of an Issei or Nikkei. Two words: companion novel, from the point of view of Piper's Japanese-American friend Betty Sato, perhaps, à la Molly Flaherty from Where Have All the Flowers Gone?  and her brother Patrick  in the My Name is America series.  So although I guess it was pretty interesting to have an "outsider"'s point of view, it would be even more so to see things from the point of view of an internee.

So, well, it makes me very happy that Dear America  has been brought back for another generation of readers.  It was well worth the wait, and the read.

In Three Words: insightful, rewarding, enjoyable.
Reccomended for: Dear America fans old and new.
Rating: 4.

3 comments:

  1. I'm glad you enjoyed this, I did too.

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  2. In my class we all had to pick a historical fiction book. So I picked Piper Davis... and just reading this book made me think of how sweet she was. She was a great girl and friendly to her Japanese neighbors... I truly don't think the Japanese people should've been taken away.... but that's life.... And I just wanted to say that Kirby Larson is an amazing author and wrote about a caring, nice, beautiful girl. Well Piper Davis might not be known world wide but she is a great historical figure. Well that's my review ... Best BOOK EVER!!!!!! You are 100% guaranteed to love this book!!!!!

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