We Are Not Free Book Review


We Are Not Free is an eye-opening book about the discrimination against Japanese people in America after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Written by Traci Chee, a Japanese American, used documents from her grandfather and others to write a book about the experiences of people at that time.

There are 14 different perspectives in the book of Japanese-American teens after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Thousands of Japanese were forced into desolate incarceration camps all over the West.

The different perspectives of teenagers and how their lives are affected by new homes, laws, and discrimination. “We could do everything right, and they’d still think we were dangerous,” said Minnow, a fictional, 14-year-old character. Chee created characters from the experiences of documented refugees.

Among the 14 perspectives, one that stood out to me was Stan, or Stanley Katsumoto’s chapter. Stan is 18-years-old, and his point of view focuses on the injustices that many of his people faced within the camp. His chapter starts when he is supposed to sign documents declaring their devotion to the United States of America; the same government that put them in the camps. The commentary was eye-opening.

“Tyranny is locking us up. Tyranny is taking out freedom. Tyranny is right here. Tyranny is America,” said Frankie (Age 19).

Keiko Kimura’s chapter was intriguing because of the unique writing style; it is written in second person. This perspective seemed quite weird and unusual, but by the end of her chapter I felt very included and it was quite immersive. Keiko’s part describes her feelings and thoughts when the love of her life is about to be shipped off to war. Her lovers name is David “Twitchy” Hashimoto, and as he and Keiko experience Twitchy’s last hours before his departure, I as a reader felt very engrossed into the plot of the story and really appreciated that the author included such a unique and interesting chapter.

One more perspective that I really enjoyed reading was Tom “Tommy” Harano, a 19 year old boy who is portrayed as weak and cowardly the whole book. His character has spent his whole life trying to appease his parents, though he was never able to live up to the smart, hard-working, Japanese son that they wanted. Tommy’s chapter is told fully through poems written by himself; they fluctuate between poems about being full-on Japanese and full-on American as Tommy struggles to decide whether he should stay in America or live in Japan with the rest of his family. I really appreciated the use of poetry in his part, it made for a really nice read in my opinion.

There are many more characters that had interesting chapters, and I wish I could correctly express how well written all of them were. In my opinion, the author did extremely well writing this book and incorporating all 14 perspectives.

After reading the book, I can say that I better understand some of the struggles of the Japanese-American citizens that lived in America after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and during WWII. Their obvious mistreatment and the vile conditions set upon them was and is extremely sad to read about and a great injustice that can never be forgiven nor forgotten. This book opened my eyes to yet another of America’s problematic events in the past, and I hope that every one that reads this book is more enlightened on how our country’s history played out. I hope they see what America needs to be held accountable for, and I hope that this book continues to make change within communities and helps people to be informed in a entertaining yet informative way.

We Are Not Free

“All around me, my friends are talking, joking, laughing. Outside is the camp, the barbed wire, the guard towers, the city, the country that hates us. We are not free. But we are not alone.”~ Yum-Yum (Age 16)