🎉 Look what arrived! My Walter Honor and Printz Honor Awards for WE ARE NOT FREE! 🎉 Thank you so much to We Need Diverse Books and YALSA for recognizing this book and this history! 🎉
So excited! WE ARE NOT FREE is a BookPal 2020 Outstanding Works of Literature (OWL) Award Winner! ✨ Thank you so much to BookPal for helping this story to reach more readers!
I am so honored to be part of the 2021 National Book Awards for Young People's Literature judging committee, serving with my esteemed colleagues Pablo Cartaya, Leslie Connor, Cathryn Mercier, and Ibi Zoboi. Thank you to the National Book Foundation for this opportunity--can't wait to dive in! See the full list of all 25 judges and read their bios here!
Photo credit: National Book Foundation
This Friday (3/12) is the 2021 Walter Awards and Diversity in Children’s Literature Symposium! At 1pm ET, join me, Robin Ha, Daniel Nayeri, Kacen Callender, and moderator Deborah D. Taylor for a great discussion on “Listening, Learning, Creating Communities,” followed by the award ceremony for Walter Award Winners Ibi Zoboi, Dr. Yusef Salaam, Victoria Jamieson, and Omar Mohamed! This event will be streamed live from the Library of Congress Facebook and YouTube channel—hope you can make it! Register here!
PRICE DROP! 📣 WE ARE NOT FREE is $2.99 on Kindle today! If you’ve been waiting to pick this one up, now’s the time! Get it here.
A THOUSAND STEPS INTO NIGHT comes out one year from today! 🌙 Set in a Japanese-influenced fantasy world, this magical romp features:
💋a cursed kiss
🐦a very good bird boy
👹a demon prince
Add it to your Goodreads here!
The Kidlit Against Anti-Racism Auction Fundraiser is LIVE! 📣 I’m donating a signed hardcover of #WeAreNotFree and a signed paperback set of #TheReaderTrilogy! It’s been difficult to get out there and sign books during the pandemic, so this will be one of few signed copies of We Are Not Free out there in the world! ✍🏼 Go here to bid on this book bundle, and check out the many other wonderful offerings of signed books, query & manuscript critiques, calls with editors & literary agents, and more! All proceeds will go to Stop AAPI Hate & Hate Is A Virus, two organizations that work to end anti-Asian racism and racism of all kinds.
I’m donating a signed copy of WE ARE NOT FREE and a signed set of THE READER TRILOGY to the Kidlit Against Anti-AAPI Racism Fundraiser (#KAAAR). Bid on my item & more via the #KAAAR website from Fri, 2/26 to Sun, 2/28. All proceeds are directed to Stop AAPI Hate & Hate is a Virus to fight Anti-AAPI violence!
Today is Day of Remembrance. On this day, February 19, in 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law Executive Order 9066, which paved the way for the mass incarceration of people of Japanese ancestry in World War II. This morning, I’d like to share some of my memories of learning more about the incarceration with you:
1. Tule Lake Segregation Center (2019): This was the third incarceration site I ever visited, on the California/Oregon border. Although much of the site has been lost to modern development, some of the original buildings, barbed wire fencing, and the jail (under the awning in the photo), built in 1945, remain.
2. Tulelake-Butte Valley Fairgrounds (2019): Near the former incarceration site at Tule Lake is a museum at the Tulelake-Butte Valley Fairgrounds. The museum is fairly small, but most striking to me was seeing one of the original guard towers in the yard. My step-grandparents were imprisoned at Tule Lake—I can’t help wondering if this was one of the guard towers they passed every day, on their way to the mess hall or to school.
3. Central Utah Relocation Center, also known as Topaz (2007): My mom and aunt took me on my first pilgrimage to Topaz back in 2007. This is me standing in the site of my grandpa’s old barracks. This was where he lived. For three years, with these strange horizons, behind barbed wire, this was where he lived. Photo by Kats Kitagawa.
4. Central Utah Relocation Center, also known as Topaz (c. 1942-1945): This is my grandpa and his family at the very same barracks during the incarceration. Because most cameras were confiscated after the attack on Pearl Harbor, we don’t have a lot of photographs from inside the camps, but there are a few, and they are precious—glimpses of these hard years, these injustices. I haven’t forgotten, family. I hope we never forget.
I just wanted to say thank you for all the love & support you’ve given WE ARE NOT FREE, through its nomination as a National Book Award Finalist, Walter Award Honoree & now Printz Honor Book. It means so much that the book has garnered this attention, not just for me, but for the fact that the Japanese American incarceration really happened, recently, to real people. I’ve heard from readers who’ve said that prior to reading WE ARE NOT FREE, they didn’t know about this chapter of American history, or they knew about it only superficially, and if these accolades mean that WE ARE NOT FREE reaches even more people and continues to help deepen our understanding of racial injustice and specifically anti-Asian sentiment in this country, then… wow. I don’t think I could ask for higher honors than that.
Since I got the news, I’ve been trying to figure out how to express the joy & gratitude & expansiveness that I feel, and what I’ve finally come to is where it all began. With family. In 1942, following the attack on Pearl Harbor, my Japanese American family was incarcerated for crimes they didn’t & would never commit. They lived behind barbed wire for three years. They fought for this country. They protested for this country. They didn’t speak about it for years, at least not to me, but I am so grateful that they finally did, whether it was over a cup of tea at the kitchen table or through their memoirs or in their letters.
WE ARE NOT FREE is fictional, but so much of this book is inspired by my family that to me, they are intertwined. Any honors I receive are more ways to honor my family. Any attention the book gets is more attention on their experiences. To me, an award doesn’t just say, “We see you.” It says, “We see what your family went through, what all these people went through, and we think it is valuable and important and worth remembering.”
So, readers, thank you for that. Thank you for recognizing this part of American history. Thank you for seeing it. Thank you for remembering.
And to my Nisei family, even though so many of you are gone now, I hope you know that this is for you. This has always been for you. I love you, and I hope I've done you proud.
Buy WE ARE NOT FREE here. See the full list of ALA Youth Media Award winners and honorees here.