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We Are Not Free

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4.44  ·  Rating details ·  2,258 ratings  ·  614 reviews
“All around me, my friends are talking, joking, laughing. Outside is the camp, the barbed wire, the guard towers, the city, the country that hates us.

We are not free.
But we are not alone.” 

We Are Not Free, is the collective account of a tight-knit group of young Nisei, second-generation Japanese American citizens, whose lives are irrevocably changed by the mass U.S. inc
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Hardcover, 400 pages
Published September 1st 2020 by HMH Books for Young Readers
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Erin I would absolutely recommend it to middle school kids. There's a little bit of low-key sexual content but nothing gratuitous. …moreI would absolutely recommend it to middle school kids. There's a little bit of low-key sexual content but nothing gratuitous. (less)
Devin Willson Someone correct me if i missed anything, but:

Domestic violence, death, loss of a loved one, racism, war themes, swearing, light sexual themes, and occ…more
Someone correct me if i missed anything, but:

Domestic violence, death, loss of a loved one, racism, war themes, swearing, light sexual themes, and occasional instances of kissing. (less)

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Average rating 4.44  · 
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 ·  2,258 ratings  ·  614 reviews


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Hailey (Hailey in Bookland)
This book was fantastic. There are a lot of characters but each one felt real and I was able to connect to them even in the short time we had together. This was by no means an easy read, but the author did a fantastic job of writing the story in a way that makes it compulsively readable. I couldn’t put it down. I felt for these characters, there was so much emotion packed in here and so much heart. Definitely a must read.
monica kim
May 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
wow, what a completely stunning and heartbreaking novel about a history we don’t learn enough about. i absolutely adored every page of this and every character. i felt so completely immersed in this group of friends, and my heart cheered and broke for them. truly, this is a novel that feels like an instant classic of the YA category, and i would love to see it taught in schools one day. it comes out this september, and i highly recommend picking it up!

read via an advance copy from hmh
Nenia ✨️ I yeet my books back and forth ✨️ Campbell

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I was very excited when I learned about WE ARE NOT FREE, not just because of that amazing cover, but because it's written from the perspective of Japanese-Americans during WWII. In WE ARE NOT FREE, we, the readers, are introduced to the atmosphere of racism many Asian Americans (not just Japanese-Americans) faced due to anti-Japanese sentiments, life in the internment camps, and how it feels to be fighting a war for a country you thought
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Katie B
I grew up in the 1980s and 1990s and World War 2 was covered extensively in history class every year. And yet, I don't remember any of my teachers talking about the US internment/incarceration camps. Pretty sad that most people of my generation can say it wasn't part of their school's curriculum either. I'm thankful this historical fiction book is available for today's generation of young readers. And it certainly is a worthwhile read for an adult as well.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, FDR o
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Kat Cho
Aug 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Truly a beautiful book! I am so emotional right now and I'm definitely going to have to re-read it because there was so much to take in. It really reminds me of the vibe the Outsiders had in how it represents a close-knit friend group (that's more like family).

A powerful and heartbreaking look into history. We Are Not Free compels us to face the reality that when fear guides us, our humanity suffers.
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❀ Alex ❀ (The Scribe Owl)
Jul 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone. Everyone needs to read this.
6/5 stars because why the heck not, it deserves it.

Thanks to Edelweiss for an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

This was by far the best standalone, maybe even the best book I’ve read all year. I laughed, I cried, and I cried some more. This was perfect, from the storytelling to the writing and I’m going to have my work cut out for me getting it all into a review, but I’m sure going to try.

Fourteen Japanese-American teenagers grew up together in Japantown, San Francisco. But when the Japanes
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Sara (sarawithoutanH)
Jan 26, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2021
I think the topic of this book is incredibly important and I really appreciate the author’s depth of research, as well as her willingness to share anecdotes from her own family’s experiences during this horrific historical event. I think this is a great book to pick up if you’re interested in learning more about the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII.

I think what lost me in this book is that it follows 14 different narrators. While this isn’t technically an anthology since the charact
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Paula M
"It’s been over three months since the attack on Pearl Harbor, and my oldest brother, Mas, has told me to come straight home from school each day."

This novel is a historical fiction that starts three months since the attack on pearl harbor. Readers will be taken through a heartbreaking and yet beautiful journey of the 14 Japanese American who were ripped from their neighborhood in San Francisco and were forced to live off in incarceration camps during WWII.

We Are Not Free is one of the best book
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Tatiana
Printz Honor 2021

Very educational, for those who want to learn about internment camps and persecution of Japanese American citizens during WWII. But lacking in vibrant characters. 10+ POVs, almost indistinguishable from one another. Didactic. Important, but not a compelling work in itself.

I'd recommend They Called Us Enemy instead.
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Tara Sim
Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant and necessary book.
chloe ♡
i received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. all opinions below are my own.

world war ii is an important part of every history curriculum – we are all taught about the allied powers and the axis powers, the bombings, the gunshots, and sometimes, about the suffering as well. how many people, however, have heard of the japanese american internment camps, and knew the stories of the people who lived there?

in the centre there’s a drawing of a japanese soldier with diagonal
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Danika at The Lesbrary
Aug 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a book about Japanese-American incarceration camps, told in 14 (!) different teen perspectives, from 1942-1945. 14 different perspectives sounds overwhelming, but they're all in the same loose group of friends (and siblings) who were living in Japantown in San Francisco before their forced removal. It's also told completely chronologically, so each perspective hands off to the next, which makes it easy to follow (even if I did keep track of some characters better than others). This group ...more
ahaana ☽
the way i cried during this book is not even funny 🥺🥺 my brain cannot process the emotions and i dont think i'll ever be able to write a review for this one 🥺😭 twitchy 🥺🥺🤧 ...more
Emily
Jul 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arcs, new-releases
This might now be my favorite book of the year. I'm going to have to read everything written by Traci Chee.

This YA novel is about the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. The story is told through multiple perspectives, a group of teenagers who lived in the same neighborhood in San Francisco. I appreciate that they each have individual voices - I never lost track of who's perspective I was reading. Just the fact that there were so many - 14 different character perspectives -
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Nev
Feb 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2021
Damn. This book really punched me in the heart. It tells the story of the forced incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II through fourteen different teenage and young adult characters. I was really interested in reading this because, at least when I was in school, this topic was never focused on enough and we didn’t truly get into what a horrific part of our country’s history this was.

Traci Chee is an amazing writer. To have fourteen different POV characters and have them all hav
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Izzie
Aug 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Thank you to HMH Books for sending me this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
This book follows a tight knit group of teens living in Japantown in San Fransisco during WW II.
Following the bombing of Pearl Harbour, Japanese American citizens are no longer trusted and the teens find themselves and their families uprooted and forced to live in incarceration camps. The story follows the lives of the teens as they struggle to come to terms with life in the camps and Americas "new" perception of th
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USOM
Aug 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Edelweiss. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

TW: assault, racism

This historical fiction novel talks about the mass incarceration and forced removal of Japanese American Citizens during World War II. We Are Not Free defies descriptions. A story about fourteen teens united by their bonds to each other and their struggles with identity, it is an emotional story of harassment, enemies and resilience. This historical fiction novel e
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Iris
Jan 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
I think this book is incredibly important. While a few things didn't necessarily work for me narratively (I didn't really love all the POVs, and most of the ones I did like I would have preferred more time with + I found the beginning dragged a bit), but those were mostly Me Things, and I recommend this book 100%, because it's incredibly important and powerfully written ...more
Jana (HokuGirlReads)
Mar 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I am sitting here in a book hangover/shock. This was such a great book but a very heavy and hard to read book due to the what the characters went through. I think this is a very important book for people to read and wish it was around when I was a teen in school learning about WW2. If you read this book be sure to read the authors note, it is a important part of the book in my opinion. I am sure I will have more to say when I have processed this book fully, but in the mean time here’s the start ...more
RachelReadsandSings
Dec 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I can’t stress enough how important books like this are.

So many topics, such as the incarceration of over 100,000 Japanese Americans during WWII, the formation, training, and campaigns of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the turmoil at the True Lake Segregation Center and its period of martial law, the return (for some) to the West Coast, and more are discussed in this book.

Chee did a wonderful job of not only balancing everything going on in this book, but the 14 different POVs the reader en
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CutieChuchu(っ.❛ ᴗ ❛.)っ
"We lost our freedom. Sometimes, it feels like we’re losing even more than that. "

Beautiful, poignant, and engaging.

There are tons of books about World War II out there, yet this story goes beyond what is usually presented and told a crucial part of history. Honestly, it took me a while before I got used to the narration as it was presented using numerous point of views, yet it's a good thing that each of characters thoughts are portrayed uniquely and deeply touching.

Do I recommend this?

A HUGE
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Liralen
Sep 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
In Germany they were concentration camps, or work camps, or death camps; in the Soviet Union it was the gulag; in the US it was internment camps. This is a part of US history that is so often pushed aside: thousands upon thousands of Japanese Americans forced out of their homes—forced to sell all their belongings on short notice, at steep discount, and keep only what they could carry—and into remote, guarded camps. Why? Because the US government thought they couldn't be trusted. And why did the ...more
Alex
Sep 21, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 7-8-and-9
Full disclosure, I received a chapter sampler for this a while back from the publisher.

With books like this, it's hard to separate the actual literary value from the importance of the subject matter. I haven't read much about Japanese internment camps and seeing the topic explored in YA felt really important. Thematically wise, I'm glad this book exists. But considering We Are Not Free threw me into a 3-day reading slump, I can't honestly give it a high rating.

This book is ambitious. We have (I
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Erin Kelly
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Incredible.
Yna the Mood Reader
Sep 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Much thanks to Colored Pages Book Tours for sending me a copy for review and for inviting me to be a part of this tour. This review is voluntary and opinions are fully my own. Also, all quotes are taken from the ARC and may or may not appear in the final published copy.

An Eye-Opening Read About Japanese-American History

Content Warning: Internment Camps, Racism, Racialprejudice, Abuse, Imprisonment, Hate Crimes, Death, Violence

As a Filipino, discussions on World War II history is not something ne
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Samm | Sassenach the Book Wizard
Traci Chee has such amazing writing. This whole topic and period of time felt handled with care.
Sam (she_who_reads_)
Jan 27, 2021 rated it really liked it
This really is a fantastic book, and I did very much enjoy it- as much as you can really say you “enjoy” a book about such a hard topic anyway.
My only real issue with this one, and why it’s not a five star read for me, was the sheer volume of POVs. I think there was 14 in all and it really prevented me from getting as immersed in this one as I wanted. I felt quite removed from all the characters, and whilst all the narrators of the audiobook were excellent, it was extremely confusing.
Katarina
Sep 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Outside is the camp, the barbed wire, the guard towers, the city, the country that hates us. But in here, we are together. We are not free. But we are not alone.

I do not have the words to accurately describe this book nor my emotions, but I will try my best, keeping in mind that I have read it in the past five hours, and I that have spent the majority of those hours sobbing my eyes out over 300 out of the 400 pages.

The book tells the story of fourteen teenagers from San Francisco who were fo
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Finitha Jose
I am not affected by this book. I am not an American and it's not my country which committed these atrocities. Why should I be bothered? Then the nightmares began. And I knew. There is no way to run. I cannot forget this story, even if I try to. That's the power of the written word. Who was I kidding again?
Fourteen youths. Incarcerated with their families in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbour attack. This is their story. Written in multiple POVs, reading this book felt like looking through a wi
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Yapha
Sep 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The bombing of Pearl Harbor changed the trajectory of World War II, and the effect it had on the Japanese-American community on the West Coast of the US was incredibly devastating. Ripped from their homes, Japanese-Americans (including US citizens whose only home was here) were stripped of their liberty and freedoms. We Are Not Free follows a group of 14 teenagers from San Francisco and what they and their families endured as they were incarcerated and faced constant indignities and injustices f ...more
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Traci Chee is a New York Times best-selling author and National Book Award Finalist. An all-around word geek, she loves book arts and art books, poetry and paper crafts, though she also dabbles at bonsai gardening, egg painting, and hosting potluck game nights for family and friends. She studied literature and creative writing at UC Santa Cruz and earned a master of arts degree from San Francisco ...more

Articles featuring this book

  Ellen Oh is an award-winning author of middle grade and young adult novels such as Spirit Hunters, The Dragon Egg Princess, and A Thousand...
74 likes · 9 comments
“See, we don't got liberty, we don't got property, but you better believe we've got the Great American Right to die for a country that doesn't want us.” 4 likes
“I want to believe in right and wrong. Here is what's right. Here is what isn't. Here is the line. Here is the question: If I got to war for America, if I kill for America, if I support an America that doesn't support me, and I supporting my oppressors? Am I killing their enemies so they can later kill me?” 3 likes
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