This is an excellent book that succeeds on many levels. Rennie Stroud is a thirteen-year-old who lives with her family on a sugar beet farm. They are in Colorado, near the fictional town of Ellis. The government constructs one of the World War II internment camps for Japanese Americans next to their farm.
The story is multi-facted.
1. There is the story of the interment camp itself, which is done with considerable attention to detail of the real internment camps. The barracks, the dust, the mess halls, etc, are all described, as well as the barbed-wire surroundings and guard towers.
2. There is the story of how the townspeople react to the camp and then nearness of people of Japanese ancestry. Some of the townspeople hate the Japanese and even stop to violence; some of the people don't hate them, and have no problem with the internees coming to town to buy things.
3. There is the personal story of Rennie's family. Her brother goes off to war; a sister lives elsewhere. Her mother is ill.
4. The fact that many Japanese Americans were hired out from the camps to farms is covered, as well as reactions of the townspeople to that being done.
5. There's a murder mystery. A young girl is raped and murdered. Many of the townspeople automatically think one of the internees did it. The sheriff has an idea of who did, but needs proof.
6. Then there is also Rennie's own story of how she has to deal with everything that is going on.
Many authors would be unable to carry this many plotlines, but the author of Tallgrass does an excellent job with all of them. The story is very realistic, extremely well done, and is one of the few books that I read basically straight through. An absolute must if you are interested in that period of U.S. history.
Japan main page
Japanese-American Internment Camps index page
Japan and World War II index page