Review of “Clark and Division” by Naomi Hirahara

Clark and Division is historical crime fiction set mainly in Chicago during World War II. Aki Ito and her family have been released from the Manzanar internment camp to work in Chicago.

[As a National Park Service site dedicated to Manzanar explains, “In 1942, the United States government ordered more than 110,000 men, women, and children to leave their homes and detained them in remote, military-style camps. Manzanar War Relocation Center was one of ten camps where the US government incarcerated Japanese immigrants ineligible for citizenship and Japanese American citizens during World War II.”]

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Aki’s older sister Rose went ahead of the family to Chicago, and she secured an apartment for them. They then brought their scant belongings with them to Chicago, as well as the considerably heavier baggage of having been put into camps by the US Government simply because they had Japanese heritage.

When the Ito family arrived, however, they were greeted at the train station with the news that Rose had just died, killed by a subway train at Clark & Division. The report was that she jumped in front of an oncoming train.

Aki refused to believe that her sister – so full of life, would have committed suicide, and she was determined to find the truth about what happened to Rose.

Aki, always a shadow behind Rose’s sun, now comes into her own as she investigates what happened to Rose, and in the process, leaves her childhood shyness behind. At first it is Aki’s naivety that allows her to be fearless, but soon her efforts are enhanced by her growing courage and determination to get whatever justice can be had for Rose.

Evaluation: Hirahara provides a glimpse of what life was like for the Issei (Japanese-born immigrants) and Nisei (ethnically Japanese children born in the US) both in the internment camps and in Chicago, as well as a portrait of Chicago at mid-century. The mystery aspects of the novel are interesting, but it is the struggles of the American citizens of Japanese heritage that take center stage, and the coming-of-age aspects of Aki’s life that personalize it.

Note: Winner of the Mary Higgins Clark Award and a New York Times Best Mystery Novel of 2021

Rating: 4/5

Published by Soho Crime, 2021

From the excellent website “Clark & Division: Japanese Americans on Chicago’s Near North Side, 1940s-1960s” at http://www.discovernikkei.org/en/journal/2020/1/20/clark-and-division-2/

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1 Response to Review of “Clark and Division” by Naomi Hirahara

  1. I’m in the midst of a class on the Japanese Incarceration through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute so of course now I find things about it everywhere. This is an aspect of it that we don’t see covered too often, what happened to the victims after they were released. I’ll check my library for this one.

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