BENEATH THE WIDE SILK SKY, by Emily Inouye Huey, Scholastic Press, Oct. 18, 2022, Hardcover, $19.99 (young adult)
A Japanese-American teen’s life is upended with the attack on Pearl Harbor in Emily Inouye Huey’s stunning debut novel, Beneath the Wide Silk Sky.
Sam Sakamoto doesn’t have space in her life for dreams. With the recent death of her mother, Sam’s focus is the farm, which her family will lose if they can’t make one last payment. There’s no time for her secret and unrealistic hope of becoming a photographer, no matter how skilled she’s become. But Sam doesn’t know that an even bigger threat looms on the horizon.
On December 7, 1941, Japanese airplanes attack the US naval base at Pearl Harbor. Fury towards Japanese Americans ignites across the country. In Sam’s community in Washington State, the attack gives those who already harbor prejudice an excuse to hate.
As Sam’s family wrestles with intensifying discrimination and even violence, Sam forges a new and unexpected friendship with her neighbor Hiro Tanaka. When he offers Sam a way to resume her photography, she realizes she can document the bigotry around her — if she’s willing to take the risk. When the United States announces that those of Japanese descent will be forced into “relocation camps,” Sam knows she must act or lose her voice forever. She engages in one last battle to leave with her identity — and her family — intact. —Synopsis provided by Scholastic Press
If ever there was a book that was going to stick with you, Beneath the Wide Silk Sky would be it. In it, Emily Inouye Huey explores racism, family complexities and the power of friendship.
Beneath the Wide Silk Sky has a weighty authenticity to it that can’t be made up. Huey was inspired by her own family history — her grandparents met and married while incarcerated in Wyoming — and paints a story that is a mixture of pain and hope.
It’s through Sam, a quiet girl with few friends and a passion for photography, that Beneath the Wide Silk Sky is framed. She’s a gentle soul with a strong spirit. Her supporting characters, especially her father, sister, brother and Hiro, are equally complex and compelling. They work together in concert to create a read that you won’t want to put down.
Beneath the Wide Silk Sky has an urgency to it that pushes both the reader and the story itself to move forward. Huey’s thoughtful treatment of the subject will make you question everything you know about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
In Beneath the Wide Silk Sky, a gorgeous cover sets the tone for what I consider one of the best YA novels I’ve read this year. Huey’s lyrical prose draws you into a moving story that you won’t soon forget.
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