All We Left Behind by Danielle R. Graham (Review by Caitlin Winkler)

2 min read

Rating: 4.25/5 stars

I have read many WWII books, both fiction and non-fiction, and I find them all to be so interesting in their own unique ways. With this specific historical time-period, I am constantly in awe of the fact that just when I think I have read about each part of the war and each place the war impacted, a new book is written that shows me an entirely different place or group of people who were affected. This book tells the story, through the eyes of a young boy-also a rarity in WWII fiction-of the abhorrent injustices that occurred to the Japanese Canadian citizens in Canada, specifically in Mayne Island, during WWII.

Hayden and Chidori, childhood friends who fall in love, were born and lived their whole lives in Mayne Island. With the start of WWII, they feel that their part of the world may just be removed enough from the war to not have any impact on their lives. Yet, as Japan joins Germany and Italy against Europe, the Japanese Canadians on Mayne Island begin to be seen as ‘other’, discrimination and xenophobia occurs. When Chidori and her family are forced into an internment camp, Hayden makes the choice to enlist as a pilot to help in an attempt to bring an end to the war, the atrocities happening to his friends and neighbors, and bring Chirordi home. What follows is a story of love and suffering as well as a telling, through the eyes of our narrator, of discrimination against a group who were treated cruelly by their own county.

Danielle R. Graham wrote a heart-wrenching story that, while fiction, is based on true events in history. I found myself immediately upon finishing this novel wanting to read more about the history of this part of the war and found the author’s note to be a good place to begin. I will certainly be looking for non-fiction books to help me learn more about this as well. Additionally, I also found the topic of this book to be particularly significant, despite being a WWII fictional novel with events taking place almost 100 years ago, with the recent increase in violence against the AAPI community in the United States.

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