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Book Review: Camp Nine by Vivienne Schiffer

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Camp Nine by Vivienne Schiffer draws you in slowly and skillfully. Set in World War II, this novel offers a compelling look at racial harmony, sexism, and privilege.

When their Arkansas land is sold to the U.S. government, Chess and her mother, Carrie, believe German POWs will become their new neighbors. The military swiftly sets up a camp, complete with barbed wire and guards. Rumors swirl around their tiny rural town. When the occupants arrive, the Mortons are stunned. The camp is for Japanese-Americans, who were living peacefully in California.

Chess and Carrie soon befriend the new occupants. They learn that the US government required Japanese-American families to walk away from their homes and futures. The Mortons become close with the Matsui family. Chess develops a crush on one of the sons, who ends up leaving to fight in the war. Another son learns how to play the blues from an African-American musician in town. Carrie has the opportunity to rekindle romance with a soldier at the camp.

By the end of the story, readers will begin to understand the complex dynamics between various communities. The book also provides a deeply disturbing view of the Japanese-American internment camps and their effects on individual families. Schiffer’s prose is poetic without being pretentious. Camp Nine is a rewarding and enriching book.

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