Be Brave Enough to Care, and Bold Enough to Act
Stephanie Morrill’s Within These Lines tells the story of Evalina Cassano and Taichi Hamasaki at the onset of the Americans entry in World War II after the attacks on Pearl Harbor. Evalina and Taichi have formed a relationship after meeting at the local market, savoring brief moments together, and writing love letters. Though they know their interracial relationship will be frowned on by some, they are eager to leave their neighborhoods and attend college so they can be together. However, bigger issues are on the horizon as Taichi’s family is interned at Manzanar Relocation Center where the family faces injustice and hardship. Meanwhile, Evalina remains at home in her Italian neighborhood and increasingly becomes more vocal against injustice.
The highlight of this young adult book, for me, was the focus on WWII from a different perspective. WWII historical fiction has become quite popular in the last few years but it has often focused on the European theater rather than the Pacific or the homefront from the American perspective. I appreciated that the author instead focused on a major issue with American policy during this time period of the “Greatest Generation”. It’s important to acknowledge both sides of the history and historical fiction is a perfect vehicle for young people to learn about history.
Additionally, as someone who identifies a multiracial I loved seeing an interracial relationship in a historical context with all its messiness. On a personal connection my grandfather was half Mexican and half Japanese his family was almost interned) and he later married a blonde German/English woman. I often think about how their relationship must have been viewed in the postwar period. So I was personally touched by the makeup of this relationship.
While I appreciated the historical context and interracial relationship I feel that the book is a bit disjointed. I was not a huge fan of the first person present point of view and I feel like third person would have been more beneficial for the story and description. Additionally, at time the historical details seemed a bit heavy handed and moralizing. I think the book could have used a bit more “show” rather than “tell”. Despite this issues, upon reflection I think this book would be a good fit for it’s target audience of young adults. I could see myself as a 12 or 13 year old really being attached to this book. So while it might not have been a perfect fit for a twenty-something with a master’s degree in history, I do think classrooms, school libraries, and public libraries would benefit from including this book as well as anyone’s personal library!