100 books like Free to Die for Their Country

By Eric L. Muller,

Here are 100 books that Free to Die for Their Country fans have personally recommended if you like Free to Die for Their Country. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Colors of Confinement: Rare Kodachrome Photographs of Japanese American Incarceration in World War II

Saara Kekki Author Of Japanese Americans at Heart Mountain: Networks, Power, and Everyday Life

From my list on really feeling the everyday life of the Japanese American community.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having encountered Japanese American incarceration as an undergraduate student, I was perplexed at how distant so many of the narratives were. How could such a large-scale forced removal in recent history seem like it happened “somewhere else?” This started my never-ending yearning to really understand and feel how these camps operated as communities. I have little doubt that this could happen again in the United States and Canada or elsewhere, so it’s my passion to keep educating people both in my home country of Finland and North America about the underlying dynamics leading to incarceration. 

Saara's book list on really feeling the everyday life of the Japanese American community

Saara Kekki Why did Saara love this book?

This book features Bill Manbo’s original photographs from the Heart Mountain incarceration camp, weaved in with the historical narrative of the camp and the time period.

What is remarkable about the photos is that they are not part of government propaganda but depictions of everyday events by an amateur photographer. Moreover, inmates weren’t supposed to have cameras in camp, so Manbo’s photos are also an act of resistance.

Since I’m always on a quest to really “feel” history, I love how these photos bring me that much closer to the people and the place. Eric Muller and others’ writings provide useful contextualization to both the art and the era. 

By Eric L. Muller (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Colors of Confinement as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1942, Bill Manbo and his family were forced from their Hollywood home into the Japanese American internment camp at Heart Mountain in Wyoming. While there, Manbo documented both the bleakness and beauty of his surroundings, using Kodachrome film, a technology then just seven years old, to capture community celebrations and to record his family's struggle to maintain a normal life under the harsh conditions of racial imprisonment. Colors of Confinement showcases sixty-five stunning images from this extremely rare collection of color photographs, presented along with three interpretive essays by leading scholars and a reflective, personal essay by a former…


Book cover of Japanese Americans: The Formation and Transformations of an Ethnic Group

Saara Kekki Author Of Japanese Americans at Heart Mountain: Networks, Power, and Everyday Life

From my list on really feeling the everyday life of the Japanese American community.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having encountered Japanese American incarceration as an undergraduate student, I was perplexed at how distant so many of the narratives were. How could such a large-scale forced removal in recent history seem like it happened “somewhere else?” This started my never-ending yearning to really understand and feel how these camps operated as communities. I have little doubt that this could happen again in the United States and Canada or elsewhere, so it’s my passion to keep educating people both in my home country of Finland and North America about the underlying dynamics leading to incarceration. 

Saara's book list on really feeling the everyday life of the Japanese American community

Saara Kekki Why did Saara love this book?

I read this book after having already read dozens of books on Japanese American history and immediately felt that this was the one book that one truly needs to read.

Spickard not only explains and interprets on behalf of the community but also really seeks to understand how and why the Japanese Americans became the type of ethnic community they are.

More importantly, this book doesn’t only focus on the surface story of the racism that led to incarceration but delves much deeper into race relations, including those between Japanese Americans and other minorities.  

By Paul R. Spickard,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Japanese Americans as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Since 1855, nearly a half a million Japanese immigrants have settled in the United States, the majority arriving between 1890 and 1924 during the great wave of immigration to Hawai'i and the mainland. Today, more than one million Americans claim Japanese ancestry. They came to study and to work, and found jobs as farm laborers, cannery workers, and railroad workers. Many settled permanently, formed communities, and sent for family members in Japan. While they worked hard, established credit associations and other networks, and repeatedly distinguished themselves as entrepreneurs, they also encountered harsh discrimination. Nowhere was this more evident than on…


Book cover of Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment

Saara Kekki Author Of Japanese Americans at Heart Mountain: Networks, Power, and Everyday Life

From my list on really feeling the everyday life of the Japanese American community.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having encountered Japanese American incarceration as an undergraduate student, I was perplexed at how distant so many of the narratives were. How could such a large-scale forced removal in recent history seem like it happened “somewhere else?” This started my never-ending yearning to really understand and feel how these camps operated as communities. I have little doubt that this could happen again in the United States and Canada or elsewhere, so it’s my passion to keep educating people both in my home country of Finland and North America about the underlying dynamics leading to incarceration. 

Saara's book list on really feeling the everyday life of the Japanese American community

Saara Kekki Why did Saara love this book?

Another powerful collection of photographs, this book shows us the images by the famous photographer Dorothea Lange.

The War Relocation Authority (a civilian agency that ran the 10 civilian incarceration camps) hired Lange to “document” life in the camps. They were expecting to receive material that would be useful as propaganda, that would prove to the outside world that the conditions were decent and inmates happy. What they got instead were depictions of harsh conditions and institutionalization. Therefore, many of Lange’s photos were never published until this volume.

Where Billy Manbo’s photos showed us an inmate’s perspective, Lange’s photos can be read as a wordless attempt to criticize the government.

By Linda Gordon (editor), Gary Y. Okihiro (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Impounded as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Censored by the U.S. Army, Dorothea Lange's unseen photographs are the extraordinary photographic record of the Japanese American internment saga. This indelible work of visual and social history confirms Dorothea Lange's stature as one of the twentieth century's greatest American photographers. Presenting 119 images originally censored by the U.S. Army-the majority of which have never been published-Impounded evokes the horror of a community uprooted in the early 1940s and the stark reality of the internment camps. With poignancy and sage insight, nationally known historians Linda Gordon and Gary Okihiro illuminate the saga of Japanese American internment: from life before Executive…


Book cover of Heart Mountain

Saara Kekki Author Of Japanese Americans at Heart Mountain: Networks, Power, and Everyday Life

From my list on really feeling the everyday life of the Japanese American community.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having encountered Japanese American incarceration as an undergraduate student, I was perplexed at how distant so many of the narratives were. How could such a large-scale forced removal in recent history seem like it happened “somewhere else?” This started my never-ending yearning to really understand and feel how these camps operated as communities. I have little doubt that this could happen again in the United States and Canada or elsewhere, so it’s my passion to keep educating people both in my home country of Finland and North America about the underlying dynamics leading to incarceration. 

Saara's book list on really feeling the everyday life of the Japanese American community

Saara Kekki Why did Saara love this book?

Gretel Ehrlich’s 1988 novel puts a spin on the incarceration experience by examining it at the intersection of two worlds.

The protagonist is a Japanese American free person living near the Wyoming incarceration camp of Heart Mountain. He has never been incarcerated because he lives outside the “exclusion area.” The story looks at the camp and its injustices through the eyes of this man, who is similar to the inmates yet an outsider.

The book really captures the irony of camp life: it is at once so deeply unjust yet so dull that years seem to blend into each other. Ehrlich’s description of the Wyoming landscape and the Heart Mountain camp is vivid and transports the reader to the scene.

By Gretel Ehrlich,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Heart Mountain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The left-at-home residents and ranchers of Luster, Wyoming, and the Japanese-American inmates of nearby Heart Mountain Relocation Camp contend with colliding political and personal circumstances


Book cover of No-No Boy

Ken Mochizuki Author Of Michi Challenges History: From Farm Girl to Costume Designer to Relentless Seeker of the Truth: The Life of Michi Nishiura Weglyn

From my list on the Japanese American World War II experience.

Why am I passionate about this?

Although I was born in Seattle after the World War II years, my parents, grandparents, and aunts spent time confined at the Minidoka site, and they very rarely talked about “camp.” During the ‘80s and ‘90s, I worked as a newspaper journalist during the time of the movement to obtain redress, and I heard survivors of the camps talk about it for the first time. My acquired knowledge of the subject led to my first book in 1993, Baseball Saved Us. Since then, the camp experience has become like a longtime acquaintance with whom I remain in constant contact.

Ken's book list on the Japanese American World War II experience

Ken Mochizuki Why did Ken love this book?

This novel is the reason I became a writer, for it showed me that we Japanese/Asian Americans had stories to tell, and we could write them.

Its protagonist is one who was labeled a “No-No Boy” for his response to two questions on the “loyalty questionairre” required to be answered in the World War II camps as to whether the respondent would be willing to serve in the U.S. military. Those who refused were not only members of a reviled race after the war, but were also ostracized by their own Japanese American community.

The novel’s powerful writing, questioning one’s place in America, is often spoken aloud in stage readings and, like me, became a catalyst for members of my generation to follow creative pursuits.

By John Okada,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked No-No Boy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"No-No Boy has the honor of being among the first of what has become an entire literary canon of Asian American literature," writes novelist Ruth Ozeki in her new foreword. First published in 1957, No-No Boy was virtually ignored by a public eager to put World War II and the Japanese internment behind them. It was not until the mid-1970s that a new generation of Japanese American writers and scholars recognized the novel's importance and popularized it as one of literature's most powerful testaments to the Asian American experience.

No-No Boy tells the story of Ichiro Yamada, a fictional version…


Book cover of Looking Like the Enemy

Ken Mochizuki Author Of Michi Challenges History: From Farm Girl to Costume Designer to Relentless Seeker of the Truth: The Life of Michi Nishiura Weglyn

From my list on the Japanese American World War II experience.

Why am I passionate about this?

Although I was born in Seattle after the World War II years, my parents, grandparents, and aunts spent time confined at the Minidoka site, and they very rarely talked about “camp.” During the ‘80s and ‘90s, I worked as a newspaper journalist during the time of the movement to obtain redress, and I heard survivors of the camps talk about it for the first time. My acquired knowledge of the subject led to my first book in 1993, Baseball Saved Us. Since then, the camp experience has become like a longtime acquaintance with whom I remain in constant contact.

Ken's book list on the Japanese American World War II experience

Ken Mochizuki Why did Ken love this book?

But the memoirs didn’t delve into the emotional and psychological impact of the forced removal and incarceration──until this unflinching one from 2005, and it’s another among the best.

Removed along with her family from their farm on Vashon Island, Washington and incarcerated at the Minidoka camp in Idaho, Matsuda Gruenewald, like most of those who underwent this experience, remained silent about what happened to them until she refused to be further confined by “the self-imposed barbed-wire fences built around my experiences in the camps.”

During a 2004 return to the Minidoka site, she wrote about her pilgrimage: “I had been saddled by feelings of paralyzing helplessness for so long. I wondered, Once I open up and start talking, will I also cry? And if I do so, will I be able to stop?”

By Mary Matusda Gruenewald,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Looking Like the Enemy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Mary Matsuda is a typical 16-year-old girl living on Vashon Island, Washington with her family. On December 7, 1942, the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, and Mary's life changes forever. Mary and her brother, Yoneichi, are U.S. citizens, but they are imprisoned, along with their parents, in a Japanese-American internment camp. Mary endures an indefinite sentence behind barbed wire in crowded, primitive camps, struggling for survival and dignity. Mary wonders if they will be killed, or if they will one day return to their beloved home and berry farm. The author tells her story with the passion and spirit of a…


Book cover of Displacement

José Pimienta Author Of Twin Cities

From my list on being in a new place (physical or emotional).

Why am I passionate about this?

Coming-of-age stories have always appealed to me because of their focus on an internal struggle. They’re usually juxtaposed with a changing landscape or moving to a new place. In broad strokes, coming-of-age stories focus on personal identity and our place in our day-to-day world. As someone who’s born in the US but grew up on the Mexican side but currently lives in California, the questions of what aspects of me are American and which are Mexican have been ongoing. With that in mind, these five books speak to me in a profound way, and I'm happy they exist as comics. 

José's book list on being in a new place (physical or emotional)

José Pimienta Why did José love this book?

This book depicts the complexities of generational trauma. Kiku, our protagonist, discovers that she can go back in time and experience what her ancestors went through during the second world war. Kiku Hughes dives into the daily lives of citizens living in Japanese internment camps. It’s a brave look at the complicated relationship a person can have with the place they live in, given the difficulties their ancestries have gone through. Also, Kiku Hughes is an amazing illustrator. The bulk of the storytelling is through her depictions of the United States throughout different decades. 

By Kiku Hughes,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Displacement as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Kiku is on vacation in San Francisco when suddenly she finds herself displaced to the 1940s Japanese-American internment camp that her late grandmother, Ernestina, was forcibly relocated to during World War II.

These displacements keep occurring until Kiku finds herself 'stuck' back in time. Living alongside her young grandmother and other Japanese-American citizens in internment camps, Kiku gets the education she never received in history class. She witnesses the lives of Japanese-Americans who were denied their civil liberties and suffered greatly, but managed to cultivate community and commit acts of resistance in order to survive.


Book cover of Weedflower

Ginger Park Author Of The Hundred Choices Department Store

From my list on that engage and enlighten children on history.

Why am I passionate about this?

In the wake of my father’s sudden death (when I was sixteen) I was left with many questions about my heritage. Why didn’t I know more about my parents and their homeland of Korea? Why wasn’t I curious enough to ask questions when my father was alive? Now I’m a Korean American author of many award-winning children’s books most of which are inspired by my family heritage. I’ve spent my adult life unearthing the past, immortalizing long-lost loved ones, sharing meaningful stories that would otherwise be forgotten. I’m drawn to historical fiction the way most people are to their smartphones. The truth is, there is no future without remembering the past.  

Ginger's book list on that engage and enlighten children on history

Ginger Park Why did Ginger love this book?

This book, while it takes place in America, made me think of my mother who grew up in Japanese occupied Korea―she was forced to give up her Korean birth name for a Japanese name; forced to go to Japanese school and bow to large portraits of Emperor Hirohito; forced into the war effort at age twelve only to lose a finger while sewing buttons onto Japanese Imperial uniforms; Meanwhile, in America, a similar and heart-wrenching story unfolds in Weedflower, a story of innocent Japanese Americans going about their lives when Japan bombs Pearl Harbor. Suddenly, Japanese Americans are no longer considered American―they are the enemy.

Twelve-year-old Sumiko has always struggled to fit in, but when the war breaks out, struggles turn to fear for her and her family, so much so, they have no other choice but to burn all precious possessions from Japan including photos of family members…

By Cynthia Kadohata,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Weedflower as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

Twelve-year-old Sumiko feels her life has been made up of two parts: before Pearl Harbor and after it. The good part and the bad part. Raised on a flower farm in California, Sumiko is used to being the only Japanese girl in her class. Even when the other kids tease her, she always has had her flowers and family to go home to.

That all changes after the horrific events of Pearl Harbor. Other Americans start to suspect that all Japanese people are spies for the emperor, even if, like Sumiko, they were born in the United States! As suspicions…


Book cover of They Called Us Enemy

Elaine Orr Author Of Falling Into Place

From my list on World War II for teens who love a good story.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m the U.S. author of more than thirty books, many of them traditional or cozy mysteries. As the daughter and niece of several World War II veterans, I grew up hearing some of their experiences – they left out the horror. But I did see the impact those travesties had on gentle people. I often marveled at the courage of those who fought without weapons to survive the deprivation and loss of many loved ones. And I’m glad I had opportunities to visit Germany and Japan as an adult, to see the friendships our nations foster today.

Elaine's book list on World War II for teens who love a good story

Elaine Orr Why did Elaine love this book?

I did not initially include this book until I took a class of middle school English students to the library and more than half of them went to the graphic novel shelves. Who better to tell the story of the U.S. version of concentration camps – internment camps for loyal U.S. citizens of Japanese descent – than George Takei of Star Trek fame (and more)?

Pictures really do tell more than a thousand words. Takei’s autobiographical novel offers moments of joy but paints an infuriating picture of the United States at its worst in the Twentieth Century. The loyalty of Takei’s father to the nation that imprisoned the family and so many others can seem like a contradiction, but it is perhaps the most rewarding component of the book. The illustrations are excellent.

By George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott , Harmony Becker (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked They Called Us Enemy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

George Takei has captured hearts and minds worldwide with his captivating stage presence and outspoken commitment to equal rights. But long before he braved new frontiers in Star Trek, he woke up as a four-year-old boy to find his own birth country at war with his father’s—and their entire family forced from their home into an uncertain future. In a stunning graphic memoir, Takei revisits his haunting childhood in American concentration camps, as one of over 100,000 Japanese Americans imprisoned by the U.S. government during World War II. Experience the forces that shaped an American icon—and America itself—in this gripping…


Book cover of Personal Justice Denied: Report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians

Ken Mochizuki Author Of Michi Challenges History: From Farm Girl to Costume Designer to Relentless Seeker of the Truth: The Life of Michi Nishiura Weglyn

From my list on the Japanese American World War II experience.

Why am I passionate about this?

Although I was born in Seattle after the World War II years, my parents, grandparents, and aunts spent time confined at the Minidoka site, and they very rarely talked about “camp.” During the ‘80s and ‘90s, I worked as a newspaper journalist during the time of the movement to obtain redress, and I heard survivors of the camps talk about it for the first time. My acquired knowledge of the subject led to my first book in 1993, Baseball Saved Us. Since then, the camp experience has become like a longtime acquaintance with whom I remain in constant contact.

Ken's book list on the Japanese American World War II experience

Ken Mochizuki Why did Ken love this book?

A government report that doesn’t read like a government report.

In 1980, the U.S. Congress voted to form the Commission to extensively research the Japanese American World War II experience and make recommendations to remedy past government actions.

This is the most extensive and comprehensive coverage of that period in American history, which includes lesser-known facts such as the U.S. government-arranged abductions of Japanese Latin Americans, and the forced evacuation of the indigenous of the Aleutian and Pribilof Islands in Alaska.

The Commission’s report led to the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, commonly known as “redress,” which mandated an apology and $20,000 each to living survivors of that experience.

This compilation has been my consistent go-to reference source, a mountain of research from which I have often excavated.

By Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Personal Justice Denied as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Personal Justice Denied tells the extraordinary story of the incarceration of mainland Japanese Americans and Alaskan Aleuts during World War II. Although this wartime episode is now almost universally recognized as a catastrophe, for decades various government officials and agencies defended their actions by asserting a military necessity.

The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment was established by act of Congress in 1980 to investigate the detention program. Over twenty days, it held hearings in cities across the country, particularly on the West Coast, with testimony from more than 750 witnesses: evacuees, former government officials, public figures, interested citizens, and…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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