Many of you who have just started following me because of my recent book, More Than A Thief, might not know I wrote another historical fiction book several years back. Best Friends Forever: A WWII Scrapbook sprouted from a childhood connection my mother had with Japanese American friends, shipped off to live in an internment camp. As a child, hearing the story of Mother’s friends who, one day, just ‘vanished,’ I mistakenly took the story as a fascinating mystery. It was only later, as an adult, I recalled Mother’s story and realized the truth. Having never been taught about the internment of our Japanese American citizens, I set out to educate myself. Being appalled at what I learned, I then set out to educate our youth, and began writing a book aimed at middle grade readers.
By this time, unfortunately, my mother was far down the Alzheimer’s road, so I reached out to others to help with the story she’d originally inspired. First-hand knowledge is best, so I interviewed those who had lived in the camps. Not only did they provide invaluable insights and information, they were also able to vet my finished story. Among loads of other research, I also visited the site of Camp Manzanar, now declared a National Historic Site in California. It was a very moving experience and really brought home the desolation and isolation of life in these camps.
Pictured are graves of those who died in the camp, paper cranes left by visitors, and the last remaining guard tower. The barbed wire and barracks are gone, though some of building foundations are still visible. I would urge any and all to pay a visit to this historic site.
German-American Louise Kessler, fourteen, starts a scrapbook when her best friend, Dottie Masuoka, leaves for the Japanese internment camps. Louise’s scrapbook includes items from her life “on the home front” as well as Dottie’s letters and drawings from the internment camp. Together, their intertwined stories tell of a friendship that even war cannot tear apart.