Tallgrass

During World War II, a family finds life turned upside down when the government opens a Japanese internment camp in their small Colorado town. After a young girl is murdered, all eyes (and suspicions) turn to the newcomers, the interlopers, the strangers.

This is Tallgrass as Rennie Stroud has never seen it before. She has just turned thirteen and, until this time, life has pretty much been what her father told her it should be: predictable and fair. But now the winds of change are coming and, with them, a shift in her perspective. And Rennie will discover secrets that can destroy even the most sacred things.

Based on a real Japanese internment camp in Colorado, Sandra Dallas shares a story of racism versus acceptance, hatred versus forgiveness, war versus friendship. Tallgrass is one of those poignant books that makes you examine your own values and prejudices.

Usually when we read a book from WWII, we see the perspective of those directly suffering:  the soldier, a family living near the front, Jews in a German concentration camp. Instead of writing from inside Tallgrass–a point of view she knew she would have a harder time understanding–she wrote from the side of the white people looking in. The result is a story of a rural farm people fighting ignorance. Some of the town is flat out racist, a few try to be accepting of a culture they do not understand in an environment where they are told that “Japs are the enemies and un-American.”

One thing I really found interesting was that the townspeople were jealous of those living in the camp. They wished their sons were forced to be interred instead of drafted because at least then they would have a roof over their heads. Meanwhile, the Japanese-American boys wanted to enlist willingly. Just such a difference.

Tallgrass is a great example of WWII historical fiction. We don’t get too many strong American stories from the war (compared to European ones), and this is certainly one to add to your list.

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