Thursday, June 07, 2012

A Diamond in the Desert

When we ordered A Diamond in the Desert, I immediately put it on my to-be-read list.  Having received solid reviews, I was looking forward to reading this story about a baseball team at a Japanese-American internment camp.  I didn't, to my regret, immediately recognize Kathryn Fitzmaurice's name, but when I flipped to her author's biography on the inside back cover of the book, I was delighted to learn that she is the author of The Year the Swallows Came Early, a book I fondly remember from 2009.  Fans of that book will be happy to learn that her sophomore novel is just as engaging and moving as her first novel.

Tetsu, his mother, and his younger sister have to leave pretty much everything, even their beloved dog, behind when they are forced to relocate to a Japanese-American internment camp after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  Their father, a prominent member of the Japanese-American community, is taken away for questioning. Their new "home," located on a Native American reservation in the middle of the Nevada desert, offers no privacy, no education for the children, and blistering weather conditions.  His only saving grace is his impromptu baseball team, which helps him form friendships and stave off the stifling boredom and worry over his father.

A Diamond in the Desert is a strong addition to children's historical fiction, as well as baseball novels in general.  The brother-sister relationship is realistic and authentic; when little sister Kimi suddenly falls ill, Tetsu's guilt and worry are profound.  The friendship among the baseball players is genuinely portrayed, and Tetsu's complicated relationship with a mute boy his age is poignant.  This is an honest, moving, and non-didactic look at a difficult time in American history. 

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