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.