Within These Lines
Within These Lines is a captivating young adult novel set in San Francisco on the cusp of World War II. Not long after Pearl Harbor was bombed, the U.S. government forcibly relocated many Japanese-American citizens to internment camps, removing them from their homes and livelihoods. This drastic action results in the separation of a young teenage couple, Evalina and Taichi.
Evalina is an Italian-American whose parents own a restaurant; Taichi is the Japanese son of a farmer, who sells produce to local restaurants. Evalina and Taichi meet and fall in love but keep their relationship secret from friends and family, believing that neither of their families will accept the union due to their racial differences. In fact, interracial marriages were illegal in many states at that time. When Taichi’s family is relocated to an internment camp, the couple struggles with the reality of separation and whether they can have a future together.
The book follows the trajectory of their relationship, shifting viewpoints between Evalina and Taichi. Evalina is portrayed as a strong and passionate young woman who defies convention and social norms in an era in which it was risky to do so; Taichi is the more level-headed one who tries to make the best of a bad situation. When an uprising occurs at Manzanar, the internment camp where he and his family live, he wrestles with the divided loyalty he feels for his ethnicity and his country. An engaging cast of supporting characters rounds out this insightful novel.
Though set 70 years ago, the issues of diversity and racial discrimination are very much timely today. In a narrative that’s sometimes disturbing to read, the author has clearly researched the period and subject matter, as she brought the internment camps to life in a vivid and evocative manner.