Sylvia and Aki is a wonderful historical novel about school segregation and Japanese internment. It takes place over several years in the 1940s and is based on true events. Aki and her family live on their asparagus farm and enjoy life in America. Then the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor and everything changes. People look at them suspiciously and they receive notice that they will have to leave their home and move to an internment camp. Her father is imprisoned in a different camp and it is years before they see him again. Sylvia and her family have just leased Aki’s farm. She is excited to be going to the new school nearby. But she and her brothers are turned away and told they have to go to the Mexican school in the barrio. Sylvia’s father starts a legal fight that eventually leads to school desegregation in California.
I really enjoyed how these stories intertwined. We think of the horrific events in Europe when we think of WWII, but we forget that we did some pretty terrible things as well. The Japanese in America lost their homes, their livelihoods and were basically imprisoned for years without trials or doing anything wrong. They were simply locked up because they were Japanese. We also don’t think of Mexicans when we think of school segregation, we think of African Americans and the struggle they had to get a good education. I like that this book spotlights a part of our history that is not often talked about. I also appreciate all the additional information Conkling included at the end of the book.