Minn. author revisits American internment camp survivor's life in new novel
ROSEVILLE, Minn. — For many Japanese Americans, the trauma of World War II internment camps lingered long after their release.
In her newest novel, "On Liberty's Wings: A Post-WWII Novel," Afton, Minn., author Diane Dettmann chronicles Yasu Nakahara's journey to rebuild her life after her family's release from a camp in California.
By 1948, Yasu has moved to Minneapolis.
Although the 22-year-old newlywed found her calling as a teacher, Yasu still struggles with post-war prejudice and residual flashbacks to prison camps surrounded by barbed wire.
The book, released this fall, marks the third installment in Dettmann's series following Yasu's family through years of confinement in a California prison camp in "Courageous Footsteps" and "Yasu's Quest."
The first two books netted Dettmann awards in young adult fiction in the New Apple E-Book Awards and Pacific Rim Book Festival as well as a Reader Views Reviewers Choice Award.
"On Liberty's Wings," Dettmann said, came as a response to readers wanting to know what happened to Yasu's family as they navigated life after internment.
"It developed as I wrote," Dettmann said. "I had it plotted out to a certain degree, but I find that once we start, the characters take over."
Dettmann said she hopes her books inspire readers to evaluate their assumptions about other people and consider the impact of discrimination.
A childhood friendship, Dettmann said, served as inspiration for Yasu's story.
As a child in north Minneapolis, Dettmann lived across the street from a Japanese family and became close with their daughter, who was around her age.
She recalls the bullying her friend endured because of her heritage, "and I didn't understand that."
Dettmann later learned that members of the family had been imprisoned in American internment camps in the 1940s.
Through her research for the series, Dettmann said she's connected with several Japanese-American organizations who have embraced the books.
Although her high school history classes in the 1960s omitted information about Japanese-American internment, Dettmann said she hopes her books help shed light on a painful chapter of U.S. history.
"The biggest thing for me is that this happened in our own country," Dettmann said. "That's what makes it relevant today. There's a connection between past and present."
Dettmann will be signing copies of "On Liberty's Wings" at the HarMar Barnes & Noble in Roseville on Jan. 21 from 2 to 4 p.m.