Author Traci Chee’s young adult fiction, We Are Not Freed, has been named a finalist for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, according to Wall Street Journal.
We Are Not Freed was selected from 311 submissions, along with titles King and the Dragonflies, Every Body Looking, When Stars Are Scattered and The Way Back, NBC reports. The winners will be announced Nov. 18, and the awards ceremony will be held virtually.
Prior to publishing We Are Not Freed, Chee wrote The Reader Trilogy, which made the New York Times bestseller list, according to UC Santa Cruz Newscenter.
Chee took to Twitter to celebrate:
We Are Not Free explores the lives of Japanese Americans in California during events of World War II like Japanese incarceration and the bombing of Pearl Harbor, amid increasing hostility to Asian Americans, according to the Wall Street Journal. To Chee, this story is deeply personal.
Chee drew inspiration for the story from her own history. She shared in her Youtube channel that her grandparents, great aunts and great uncles were incarcerated from 1942 to 1945. To conduct research for the book, she read through her grandparents’ belongings and interviewed her relatives about the experience.
What resulted were accounts of 14 Japanese American teenagers, a “kaleidoscope of experiences and reactions and contradictions, all linked by friendship and love,” she told BookPage.
Writing the book, was like unearthing family history the author herself was unaware of, she added.
“Both my grandparents had died long before I began asking questions about camp,” she told BookPage. But listening to my great-aunts and great-uncles, I feel like I got to know them—maybe not as we would have known each other as grandparents and grandchild, but as they were when they were young and strong and foolish and falling in love. Doing the research for this book, from the interviews to the visits to camp to my grandparents’ letters, brought me closer to my family in a way I never expected and a way I will treasure forever.”
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