Courageous Footsteps

Written by Diane Dettmann
Review by Joanna Urquhart

The historical injustice of President Franklin Roosevelt’s order to imprison all West Coast Japanese people in 1942 for the duration of the war is brought into the dramatic spotlight in Diane Dettmann’s gripping novel Courageous Footsteps.

The story revolves around fifteen-year-old Yasu Sakamoto and her older brother Haro, who are living in Glenville, California, when the Empire of Japan attacks Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. Their family is eventually sent to an internment camp, where the two young people must cope with having their whole world uprooted and turned into a brutal, overcrowded nightmare of barbed wire and armed guards.

Dettmann very effectively melds her extensive research with an intensely human story, and although Yasu is a far more successfully-realized character than Haro, the power of the central story is scarcely diminished by such a discrepancy. This is an inherently dramatic and dark period in American history, and Dettmann does a confident job giving it human faces and voices.