Monday, November 24, 2014

The Train to Crystal City

I still remember calling my mom during my freshman year of college, completely upset and confused by a book I was reading that claimed that Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps during World War II.  Had this really happened, I asked her?  How had I managed to never know about this? And why was Danielle Steele the person to teach me about it?

In the many years since I first learned of this black spot in our country's history, I have done a lot of reading about the Japanese American experience during World War II.  There are a lot of books out there that cover this topic fairly well - and even many geared toward the middle grades (which would have totally helped me out when I was growing up).  

However, Jan Jarboe Russell's new book, due out in January, The Train to Crystal City: FDR's Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America's Only Family Internment Camp During World War II adds another layer to the history of internment camps in our country.

In addition to Japanese Americans experiencing internment camps, Germans and Italians were also sent to Crystal City, an internment camp.  For some wives and children going to Crystal City was a way in which they could be reunited with their husband or father who had been (wrongly) accused of supporting his country of origin.  

Crystal City's internees were unique in that they were in a camp with the idea that they would be repatriated to their own country in exchange for American prisoners of war.  Although this was not explained to them, years later some of them realized that their repatriation helped rescue others from near certain death.

Russell's book is a work of non-fiction, but the narrative reads like a story as Russell tells about several of the Crystal City internees, and their lives both before and after World War II.  

I absolutely loved this book. I will admit to being stuck on the topic of World War II, so this one was high on my list of things I wanted to read, and it is now high on my list of books I will be recommending to others to read.  

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