November 6, 2010

The Journal of Ben Uchida by Barry Denenburg

Date Started:  November 5
Dated Finished:   November 5

Summary: Ben Uchida is Japanese and in February 1942, two months after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, he and his family are forced to go to Mirror Lake, a internment camp for Japanese-American citizens. Ben and his family try to make the best of situation, but they find themselves increasingly disillusioned by the constant surveillance and terrible conditions of the camp.

Likes: Ben's character is so cynical and he's so sarcastic about everything. I enjoyed reading that aspect of his character. He's kind of lazy in school and a bit of a goof-off, but he's good natured and knows when to keep his silence. He is a good baseball player and it's his outlet for all the frustration he and others feel about being interned. His cynical attitude is a change of pace from the other more uplifting viewpoints. Not that the other viewpoints are wrong or anything, but I was actually pleasantly surprised and a little dismayed with Ben's sarcastic point of view. It's surprising because I wasn't expecting the character, at twelve years old, to be so apathetic even before the internment. It was a welcome surprise though. I was also dismayed because his cynicism only worsened when he was placed in the camp, it's sad to see young kids so beaten down by things that are out their control. 

Dislikes: The story stops abruptly and at a strange location. I wanted to know more about the relationship with the father, who was taken away at the beginning of the novel. I feel like this book barely skimmed the surface of the Japanese internment, which is probably that way to encourage kids to look into the event for themselves. The story ends so awkwardly that I found the facts and details about the actual event a bit more compelling than the last fourth of the book.

Overall: Since I'm older, the story really didn't come together for me, but I'm not a part of the target demographic. It's still an interesting book because of Ben's cynical point of view on everything, but to get deeper into the Japanese internment, one could probably read Farewell to Manzanar as well as other books. I'm not saying that this book shouldn't be read, but if you are interested in the Japanese internment or just want to learn more about the history, it shouldn't be the only book you read. This is a good starting point to jump off from though. In other words, this shouldn't be the end all be all of books about the Japanese internment.

Recommended by: I have always been interested in the Japanese internment. It was probably one of the biggest mistakes in a post-slavery world that America could have ever done. (we still haven't learned) I always wonder how America could have made such a grave mistake and I'm always curious to know how children who are old enough to remember what it was like before, during, and after. I'm interesting in reading what happened afterward as well. I remember learning about this in school and wondering why as soon as Americans are finished picking on one race, they go and exploit another. (think about that.) The sad thing is that I don't think the country has learned. Sure, we're not going to intern people again, but we're just going to deny them civil liberties and a descent quality of life. I think I'm going to stop myself now before I go on a full length rant.

Acquired: Library

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storminmay said...

I used to be nuts about the Dear America books -- I still have a few good ones on my shelf. ;) I think they, and the American Girl dolls/books, are a big reason why I became so interested in History later in life (enough to major in it, LOL).

Najela said...

Yeah, I used to read the Dear America and American Girl books too. I like the Girls from Many Worlds/Lands or whatever books too. Most history is pretty cool. It took a while for me to truly appreciate it, especially when the truth wasn't watered down.


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