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“The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise”: Dan Gemeinhart on the line between truth and fiction

“The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise”: Dan Gemeinhart on the line between truth and fiction

CoyoteSunrise225.jpgMy favorite children’s books for older readers tend to be those that make me laugh and tug at my heart. I love a character I can root for, one who learns something meaningful about themselves and/or the world around them over the course of their fictional journey. The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise is one such book. 

We made The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise our number one pick for the best children’s books of 2019 so far, and I’ve passed it along to those with a young person at home looking for “something good to read” over summer vacation. In his original piece below, author Dan Gemeinhart introduces us to his remarkable characters and how their story came to be.


The line between fiction and nonfiction is not always as clear as we think it is. Sometimes stories that we read as works of imagination—and even stories that we write as works of imagination—end up carrying a lot of real truth inside their words. This is something I learned as I wrote my latest book, The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise.

It’s the story of a girl named Coyote, and her dad Rodeo. Coyote lives a very unusual life: She and Rodeo live on an old refurbished school bus. They ramble around America in it, never staying any place long, never putting down roots, never having friends, and, in Coyote’s case, never going to school. We find out that her life wasn’t always like this, though. Five years ago, she had a mom and two sisters and lived in a house that wasn’t on wheels. But then tragedy struck: her mom and sisters were killed in a car accident. Her dad, too heartbroken to keep living in their town or to hold down a job, sold their house and bought the bus, and they’ve been on the move ever since. They left their old life and memories completely behind.

Coyote’s life is turned upside down, though, when she learns that a park back in their old town is being torn out. Buried in that park is a memory box that Coyote made with her mom and sisters before the accident, and it’s about to get lost forever. She is most definitely not okay with that. So, she has to race from Florida to Washington state in four days to save this memory box that means the world to her—all without her dad realizing where they’re really headed. Along the way they are joined by a ragtag crew of hitchhikers and fellow travelers, each on a quest of their own, each with something to teach Coyote on her own journey.

On its face, it is an entirely untrue novel. But its roots are grounded in very true soil.

The family at the heart of the story is based on my own, all of whom are thankfully still alive. I live with my wife and three daughters in a small town in Washington state, just like Coyote’s dad did in the story. The origin for this book was a dark daydream I had one night several years ago. I was home with my middle daughter—my wife and other daughters were out running errands—and I had a horrible thought: What would happen to me and my daughter if the rest of our family never made it home? How would we put our lives back together? How would we survive a loss like that, and how could we ever move forward from it?

I knew that I couldn’t keep living in our house or our small town, surrounded by memories and grief. But I didn’t know where else I’d want to go…and thus was born the idea of a heartbroken dad and daughter, on the road and on the run from a loss and sadness they could never outrun.

When I wrote the rough draft, I wanted to keep the story grounded in that place of truth. So, I kept it entirely autobiographical. All the characters’ names matched mine and my family’s, the places and memories were pulled directly from our actual lives, and I tried to keep myself in the raw heartbreak of that morbid daydream. Even though all the events were fabricated, I didn’t write it as fiction—I wrote it as truth, just a truth that hadn’t actually happened. Because of that, it was a very difficult story to write. It was an emotional, at times almost traumatizing, journey of storytelling. My family got some extra-fierce hugs when they got home on many days. But it was also intensely satisfying, and in a way almost cathartic; by vividly imagining nearly the very worst thing that could ever happen to me, by confronting my heart’s greatest fear, I learned to know myself even better. By turning on the light to see the monster, I took some of the sharpness out of its teeth.

Of course, I eventually changed all the names and details. Writing a book depicting the deaths of most of my family was a bit too dark and dramatic by any measure—and explicitly vetoed by my wife. But the truth is still there, in the shape and soul of the story. It’s a story that came from the deepest parts of my heart, and feels as true to me as any diary entry or blog post.

An oft-repeated piece of advice for aspiring writers is to “write the story that only you could tell,” and with The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise I know I’ve done that. I’m so happy and honored to see it out there in the world, and in the hands and hearts of readers.

Dan Gemeinhart

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Best literature and fiction of July

Best literature and fiction of July

A heart-wrenching novel about a unique family living off the grid in Appalachia Ohio; a story that expertly explores the highs and lows of romantic and familial love; a book senior editor Chris Schluep has dubbed “the great Pacific Northwest novel,” and more.

See all of our literature and fiction picks, or browse the rest of the Best Books of the Month


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Stay and Fight by Madeline ffitch

Winter is coming! And if you’re on your own in Appalachian Ohio, you’d better come up with a good game plan. For Helen, this means enlisting recently displaced neighbors Karen and Lily, along with the couple’s precocious son, Perley, to create a homestead with her on 20 acres of land. Perley is an intrepid soul, and by the time he expresses interest in leaving their isolated existence to go to school, you’re almost used to his normal: living (and sometimes sleeping with) black rat snakes, minding the “humanure” pile, and foraging for dinner when the daily game of “survival dice” doesn’t win a trip to the grocery store. Social services, however, is decidedly more fazed, so when an innocent accident attracts their attention, the family’s imperfect, but preferred, utopia is upended. First-time novelist Madeline ffitch’s background as an environmental activist is evident in Stay and Fight, which deftly pivots from family drama to an encroaching political one that poses even more of a threat to their way of life. If that sounds stress-inducing, it is, but it’s tempered by the characterizations of this unconventional family, particularly the exquisitely endearing Perley, who is uniquely bonded to each member of this motley crew and provides the motivation behind the book’s title. Stay and Fight is an earnest and heart-wrenching celebration of family, and what it means to be free. –Erin Kodicek


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The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo

Claire Lombardo’s debut, The Most Fun We Ever Had, is the best kind of family saga—tightly woven with characters who are flawed and human, and who submerge us face-first into the messiness of familial and romantic love. Marilyn and David Sorenson have been inseparable since the 1970s, and even as life has thrown them challenges, their love is the sun around which all else orbits. In 2016, we see their four daughters all suffering from unique dysfunctions—and all fearing that they will never have a relationship as strong as that of their parents, “two people who emanated more love than it seemed like the universe would sanction.” Eldest daughter Wendy has suffered a devastating loss and soothes herself with alcohol and men; Violet is faced with a buried secret—the son she gave away in a closed adoption 16 years ago; Liza, pregnant by a man she’s not in love with, is weighing single parenthood; and Grace—the baby of the family, struggles to launch and is keeping a secret from her family. Told through flashbacks interspersed with the present day, The Most Fun We Ever Had is a beautifully written, intricately detailed look at a Midwestern American family. It’s an up-close examination of life, love, and the inevitable changes wrought by the passage of time that places Lombardo in the company of talented chroniclers of family life such as Celeste Ng and Meg Wolitzer. –Sarah Gelman


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Deep River by Karl Marlantes

To date, Karl Marlantes is best known for his novel Matterhorn, which is a classic in Vietnam War literature. In the masterful Deep River, he is writing about a different place and time—but admirers of Matterhorn will recognize Marlantes’s gift for telling a sweeping, consuming epic through the day-to-day experiences of his characters. Escaping famine and Russian oppression, three Finnish siblings head for the United States in the early 20th century. They each find their way to the Pacific Northwest, a place of astounding natural resources, and there they begin to knit themselves into the mostly-Scandinavian community built up around those resources. There is Ilmari, who becomes a farmer and a blacksmith, and who dreams of starting a church. There is Matti, who becomes a logger. And there is Aino, the sister who may possess the most grit and determination of any of them, and who emerges as a union organizer in a place where work often meant low pay and the constant threat of death or dismemberment. Deep River is a place where you hear the trees thundering to the ground and you can see the 150 pound salmon working their way upstream. It is also a finely-hewn portrait of people’s lives in an era when this country was figuring out what it stood for. You could call Deep River the great Pacific Northwest novel, but it’s even more than that. –Chris Schluep


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The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Based on a real school for boys that closed in Florida in 2011 after more than one hundred years in existence, Colson Whitehead’s Nickel Academy is the kind of institution that purports to rebrand bad boys into good young men. So in theory it should be a good place for Elwood, a young black man who, although he had planned to attend a nearby college, was caught unknowingly riding in a stolen car. But what happens inside Nickel Academy does not match its public image, and Elwood is about to learn that, no matter how idealistic or optimistic he is, his life is taking a very bad turn. He is lucky to meet Turner, who does not share Elwood’s idealism and who helps him to survive Nickel Academy. But what Elwood experiences there will never leave him. Set in the 1960s during Jim Crow, The Nickel Boys is both an enjoyable read and a powerful portrayal of racism and inequality that acts as a lever to pry against our own willingness to ignore it. —Chris Schluep


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A conversation with Karl Marlantes, author of “Deep River”

A conversation with Karl Marlantes, author of “Deep River”

deepriver.jpgKarl Marlantes has written the Great Pacific Northwest novel. Set in the early 20th century, Deep River features Finnish immigrants, endless resources, and an effort to establish workers’ rights. I have given this novel to several people, and the consensus is I never knew a book about unions could be so enjoyable. To be fair, it’s not just about unions—but I did ask Marlantes whether he had any concerns around writing about union activity and keeping it interesting (which it is). You can see his answer in the video below.

Also posted is the review I wrote when we picked Deep River as a Best Book of the Month. This is one of my favorite books of the year: it’s a big, sweeping story that is built around characters. And Marlantes is a fine character himself, which I hope comes through in our interview. Enjoy.


To date, Karl Marlantes is best known for his novel Matterhorn, which is a classic in Vietnam War literature. In the masterful Deep River, he is writing about a different place and time—but admirers of Matterhorn will recognize Marlantes’s gift for telling a sweeping, consuming epic through the day-to-day experiences of his characters. Escaping famine and Russian oppression, three Finnish siblings head for the United States in the early 20th century. They each find their way to the Pacific Northwest, a place of astounding natural resources, and there they begin to knit themselves into the mostly-Scandinavian community built up around those resources. There is Ilmari, who becomes a farmer and a blacksmith, and who dreams of starting a church. There is Matti, who becomes a logger. And there is Aino, the sister who may possess the most grit and determination of any of them, and who emerges as a union organizer in a place where work often meant low pay and the constant threat of death or dismemberment. Deep River is a place where you hear the trees thundering to the ground and you can see the 150 pound salmon working their way upstream. It is also a finely-hewn portrait of people’s lives in an era when this country was figuring out what it stood for. You could call Deep River the great Pacific Northwest novel, but it’s even more than that. –Chris Schluep, Amazon Book Review



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The best nonfiction of 2019 so far

The best nonfiction of 2019 so far

Among other things, I have enjoyed complaining about how nonfiction is defined by what it is not (fiction), which is hardly a definition at all—it’s just about everything in the world. For our purposes here (narrowing down the year’s “best” nonfiction books to 20, an absurdly small and somewhat arbitrary number), we fortunately have other best books of the year so far lists to carry some of the load: history, biographies & memoirs, and cooking, food & wine, to name a few. Still the first half of 2019 has been a bounty for true tales. Here’s a closer look at 10 of our favorites, with links to the rest below. 


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Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane

Heads-up to your inner Gilgamesh: “The way into the underland is through the riven trunk of an old ash tree.” Starting with that sentence, Macfarlane explores not only the physical world beneath our feet—from catacombs to caves to nuclear waste facilities to the land underneath Greenland shrinking ice cap—but also the realm of “deep time,” a parallel expanse of past and future almost unimaginable to human intellect, but also irresistible to contemplate. Like this one-of-a-kind book. And we love the jacket by Stanley Donwood, who creates Radiohead album covers in his spare hours. 


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Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe

With the pacing of a thriller, and an intricate, yet compulsively readable storytelling structure, Keefe’s exhaustive reportage brings home the terror, the waste, and the heartbreaking futility of a guerrilla war fought in peoples’ homes as well as in the streets. Say Nothing captures the devastation of veterans on both sides, uneasily enjoying the peace that finally came while wondering if they had fought the good fight or been complicit in murder all along.


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Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep

Assisting with the research for Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood inspired Harper Lee to embark on her own true crime masterpiece. Casey Cep finishes what she started in Furious Hours, which recounts the unusual case that so captivated the author of To Kill a Mockingbird (and it is a doozy, involving a serial-killing preacher and a vigilante who meted out some rough justice—and both were represented by the same attorney!).


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Greek to Me: Adventures of the Comma Queen by Mary Norris

If you think grammar isn’t fun, you haven’t read Mary Norris. In her first book, Between You and Me, Norris regaled us (for real) with from tales from The New Yorker’s copy department, punctuated with humor and style (sorry not sorry). Greek to Me is a paean (somebody stop me) to Greece—its thousands of years of history, culture, and most importantly, it’s language alphabet, which so deeply influenced our own. Even if it does have two Os.

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Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do by Jennifer L. Eberhardt PhD

Through research in courtrooms, in prisons, on the street, and in coffee shops, Eberhard – a Stanford professor of psychology and MacArthur genius grant-recipient – shows us the subtle, sometimes dramatic, repercussions of bias in how each of us interacts with the world around us. The good news? We’re not hopelessly doomed by our innate prejudices. Biased reminds us that racial bias is a human problem—one all people can play a role in solving.


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The Last Stone: A Masterpiece of Criminal Interrogation by Mark Bowden

In 1975, Bowden (Black Hawk Down, among others) was a young Baltimore reporter covering the disappearance of two sisters, 11 and 13. The investigation dead-ended until 2013, when a cold case detective chanced upon a curious statement given by a man named Lloyd Welch, who was serving time for a series of unrelated but similar crimes. Welch is also a compulsive liar, but not a skilled one—and as five detectives untangle his ever-changing stories, they get closer to solving an unspeakable crime. The outcome might not be a total surprise, but the ride-along is well worth the time.


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Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster by Adam Higginbotham

A minute-by-minute account of the explosion and meltdown of Chernobyl’s Reactor Four, which you may know as the worst nuclear disaster in the history of unintentional nuclear disasters. In 1986, the USSR was still so buttoned up that little information about the accident leaked beyond its borders, not to mention the human consequences. Higginbotham describes how the influence of the Communist Party facilitated and compounded the catastrophe: The pressure of arbitrary deadlines and quotas was so great that corners were cut (and lied about) at every level, resulting in flawed plans, construction materials, and operating procedures. The cognitive dissonance was so great that the station managers refused to believe the scale of the disaster—even though they were on site themselves, receiving eyewitness reports there was nuclear fuel burning in the open air and irradiated workers were burned and dying.


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All that Remains: A Renowned Forensic Scientist on Death, Mortality, and Solving Crimes by Sue Black DBE FRSE

A forensic anthropologist whose first job was an apprenticeship in a butcher’s shop Dame Sue Black has lived close to death almost her entire life. But while the subject matter is dark—human dissections, deaths of loved ones, crime scenes, mass fatalities, etc.—All That Remains is not a dark book. Instead it’s filled with (Black?) humor and a clear-eyed practicality often lacking when it comes to a subject that rightly freaks us out. 

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Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves by Frans de Waal

Have you seen the video of Mama, a dying, 59-year-old chimpanzee who receives one last visit from a biologist who had worked with her years before. (If you haven’t, go watch it and come back, after you stop weeping.) Primatologist de Waal uses the event to explore the emotional lives of animals and the similarities to humans’; in the way that we have no organs that other animals don’t have, the same is true for our emotions.


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The Perfect Predator: A Scientist’s Race to Save Her Husband from a Deadly Superbug: A Memoir by Steffanie Strathdee

The superbugs are coming, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Or is there? Steffanie Strathdee and Tom Patterson were on vacation when Patterson fell ill. What seemed like food poisoning was revealed to be a life-threatening, drug-resistant bacteria. Coincidentally, they both worked at the UC San Diego medical center, where Strathdee went to work identifying the ailment, and finding a remedy for her husband. The Perfect Predator is a timely, gripping, real-life medical thriller.


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Cheers to a new romantic comedy from Jasmine Guillory

Cheers to a new romantic comedy from Jasmine Guillory

When Jasmine Guillory’s The Wedding Date hit shelves in early 2018, it sported a colorful illustrated cover. That now-iconic look helped launch a new generation of sharply written romantic comedies that not only returned the fun to roller-coaster relationships but headlined rom-coms with people of color.

Later in 2018, Reese Witherspoon picked Guillory’s second novel, The Proposal, for her Hello Sunshine Book Club, delivering another wave of happy readers to Guillory’s funny yet vulnerable romances.

This year, Guillory releases two books—The Wedding Party (July 16) and Royal Holiday (October 1)—that delicately weave in and out of her previous novels while giving struggling but funny new couples their due.

While in New York at BookExpo, the annual book industry conference, we grabbed the opportunity to sit down and talk with Jasmine Guillory about The Wedding Party, which we picked as one of the best romances of July.

The Wedding Party opens at Theo’s birthday party in a bar in San Francisco—a scene originally featured in The Wedding Date. While Alexa reunites with her boyfriend, Theo and Alexa’s friend Maddie call a temporary truce in their hate-hate relationship.

Said Guillory about that scene, “When I wrote that scene in The Wedding Date, what I didn’t expect to happen was to realize while I was writing, Oh, wait a minute. I think there might be something with Maddie and Theo. And so I kept that germ in my head through the rest of that book and then through The Proposal.” For readers new to Guillory, reading her first two books isn’t necessary for enjoying the third. “Alexa and Drew do appear in the book, as do Carlos and Nik from The Proposal, but if you come into it blind, you’ll still understand everything.”

Tension is required in a good romance, and the tension between Maddie and Theo has been there since their first encounter. Explained Guillory, “Maddie and Theo got the wrong impression of each other in their first meeting, and then they’re both so entrenched in their ideas of who that other person was that they never stopped to think, Could I like that person? Are they a different person than I thought they were?

Even after Theo and Maddie’s relationship goes through a significant and sexy pivot, neither is willing to trust that the change could be permanent. “They try to stay away from each other for a while, but they have to keep coming back together for [Alexa’s] engagement party and for all of the bridal stuff, and that keeps their relationship going…. They’re also trying to keep [their relationship] a secret the whole time from their best friend, Alexa, because they don’t want her to get excited about it. I found it really fun to write about how they tried to keep those secrets, about what their feelings were about the secret, and why each of them wanted to keep that secret.”

Like Maddie and Theo, Guillory felt no certainty when she started writing that there would be a happy ending in store for them. “When I wrote The Wedding Date, I knew when I wrote that scene [at Theo’s birthday party] that at some point I wanted to write Maddie and Theo’s story, and I knew I wanted to write something for Carlos. But I wrote The Wedding Date before I’d gotten published. I mean, I didn’t have an agent; I didn’t have a publishing house. I was just writing this book for fun. I had no idea what was going to happen in my writing and publishing life. So I’m thrilled that they have all gotten their stories.”

Readers and would-be writers can often think that a published author’s life is an easy one. Sure, writing can be hard, but not all that hard, right?

Not quite—even for an author whose first book has been a success.

JasmineGuilloryCreditAndreaScher.jpgWhen I told Guillory that one of my favorite scenes in The Wedding Party was when Theo comes over to Alexa’s house to make homemade margaritas for her and Maddie, Guillory smiled and said, “I’m glad to hear that. I really loved that scene. When I was working on the book, I had hit a dead zone right there. I was approaching the middle of the book, and I had a lot going on. I was still working full time, The Proposal was coming out soon, and I was stressed about the draft of this book. Then I thought, ‘You know, I just need to remember why I love these characters. I’m just going to write a scene that is not going to end up in the book of them just sitting around and drinking margaritas together—and have some fun with it.’ And so I wrote that scene and I loved it so much, I knew I needed to find a way to keep it in the book.” The scene turned into a critical one in which Maddie and Theo test whether Alexa suspects that their enemies-to-frenemies relationship is actually something more… and I won’t share more details than that at risk of spoiling the ending.

Maddie’s story isn’t completely done, though. In October, Guillory’s next book, Royal Holiday, sees Maddie and her mother, Vivian, heading unexpectedly to England when Maddie is hired at the last minute to style a member of the royal family. “Vivian meets the queen’s private secretary, who is there also for the holiday week, and they have a little fling and then they fall in love,” said Guillory.

October 1 can’t come fast enough.


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False fears, false foes: George Takei on “They Called Us Enemy”

False fears, false foes: George Takei on “They Called Us Enemy”

Most of us are aware that there are shameful moments in U.S. history that do not get covered in high school history class. Among those moments is the internment of more than 100,000 Japanese Americans during World War II in ten camps scattered across the United States.

One of those incarcerated American citizens was five-year-old George Takei. Initially made famous though his television roles, Takei has been a longtime advocate of change through democratic engagement.

Now, through his graphic memoir of his childhood years spent in barbed-wire prison camps patrolled by soldiers and tanks, Takei shines a light on one of our nation’s darker decisions and asks readers of all ages to reflect on whether lessons learned about racism and fear have really taken hold.

Adrian Liang, Amazon Book Review: Please tell me about They Called Us Enemy.

George Takei: It’s [about] my childhood imprisonment. People are shocked by that imprisonment by my own country—the United States.

I remember that morning when two soldiers carrying bayoneted rifles—shiny bayonets on them—marched up our driveway, stomped up the porch, and with their fists began pounding on the front door and ordered us out of our home.

We were innocent Japanese Americans—Americans of Japanese ancestry. My mother was born in Sacramento. My father was a San Franciscan. They met and married, and [my siblings and I] were born in Los Angeles. And yet because of these faces—because we happened to look like the people that bombed Pearl Harbor—we were rounded up and imprisoned in barbed wire prison camps.

Most people don’t know this story of America: innocent people, innocent American citizens in prison, simply because of race and more hysteria and the lack of political leadership.

In fact, the politicians were the front-line troops. They were advocating fiercely to lock up the Japs, especially the California politicians. One whose name will remain in history was [Earl Warren,] the Attorney General of the State of California at the time. And he had his eyes on the governor’s office; he wanted to be elected the governor of California. He saw that the single most popular political issue in California was the “lock up the Japs” issue. So this top attorney of the state of California—who knows the law, who knows the Constitution, but who was ambitious—got in front of that issue and became an outspoken advocate of it, and he made an amazing statement. He said, We have no reports of spying or sabotage or any traitorous activities by Japanese Americans, and that is ominous because the Japanese are inscrutable. We don’t know what they’re thinking. So it would be prudent to lock them up before they do anything. This is the top law enforcement officer of the state of California! Saying that the absence of evidence is the evidence to lock us up—innocent Americans who are of Japanese ancestry. No charges, no trial, no due process in prison in these camps.

This happened in the United States when I was five years old. And it goes on to be a real horror story for my parents, but I tell this story [in They Called Us Enemy] from the vantage point of a five-year-old boy because it makes it a bit more accessible. We’re also aiming this book at the youth readership, because they’re going to be the people that are going to be making the new America of tomorrow, and we want them to grow up knowing this history of the United States. Most Americans to this day, when I tell them about my childhood in prison, are shocked that something like this happened in the United States. They’re uneducated on our history. But our American history is an unending cycle of injustice to minorities, from the Native Americans to African Americans whose ancestors began as slaves. And we were in prison. We want another generation to grow up knowing the larger, in-depth history of the United States, and that’s why we’re presenting this as a graphic memoir.

[My father] told me that our democracy, despite all that he lived through, is still the best form of governance. But it’s also the one that demands the most of us, because people have the capacity to do great things, but people are also fallible human beings. President Roosevelt, during the ’30s, proved his greatness by his political savvy and vast network of connections and his creative thinking, and [he] pulled the nation up from that crushing Depression. He was a great president. But great people are also fallible human beings, and he failed as a great president when he made a great mistake which affected us catastrophically.

This is a story that is so important and, particularly now, it is so timely and so relevant to our times when we are repeating that again with sweeping characterizations. President [Roosevelt] classified us as enemy aliens. With equally sweeping statements, Latinos south of the border are [characterized as] drug dealers, murderers, and rapists.

My understanding is that the racism that led to the internment camps was not the first show of racism against Japanese. Japanese weren’t even allowed to immigrate to the United States for 20 years before that [per the Immigration Act of 1924].

The only immigrant group denied naturalized citizenship was immigrants from Asia. So there’s discrimination from the outset. Then the three western states—California, Oregon and Washington—passed the Alien Land laws, which said nothing about Asian immigrants, but it said aliens ineligible to citizenship are denied land ownership in our state. And the only aliens ineligible for citizenship were immigrants from Asia. My maternal grandparents were in farming in the Sacramento delta. He took scrap land, because that was all that he could farm, and turned it into bountiful, productive farmland, but he couldn’t buy it because he was an alien ineligible for citizenship. However, when [my grandfather’s] son was born, he became a landowner because he was an American by virtue of birth, and he owned the land that my grandfather developed.

You have a quote from your father in the book where he stresses that participatory democracy is very important. What does “participatory democracy” mean to you?

He was the one that bore the pain and the anguish the most in our family, and yet… he told me that despite everything we went through, this is still the best form of government. But it’s the most demanding form of government because we have to participate in this system to honor the noble ideals of democracy. All men are created equal, but we have to equally participate in it.

This was during the Civil Rights movement, and I was active in that as well. I said, “All right, I’ll organize friends from school and go downtown to the federal building and protest. Why didn’t you do [that], Daddy?” And he said, “Well, they were pointing guns at me. I may have done something like that, but I had to think about your mother, your brother, your sister, and you. If something happened to me, what do you think would happen to you guys?” I understood that, but I kept saying, “But Daddy…” “But Daddy…” So he took me downtown to the Adlai Stevenson for President campaign headquarters. And he said, “This is how we participate in a participatory democracy.”

What about your mother? There are scenes in the graphic novel where you’re talking with your father when you’re a teenager and a young adult, having these conversations with him. What did your mother say about your years in the internment camps?

My mother was a very supportive mother—supportive of my father’s decision. She agreed with everything my father said. But she was determined to make our lives as normal as possible in this abnormal circumstance. She smuggled in a portable sewing machine.

That was one of my favorite scenes!

Anything with sharp edges or pointy edges—anything mechanical—was verboten. But there were hordes of us all with our luggage, and she had the guts to carry that heavy duffle bag, [the sewing machine inside] wrapped with baby blankets and sweaters and disguised with Cracker Jack boxes and the animal cracker boxes. And she marched right in front of those MPs, and she was a gutsy lady to do that. But she was determined to not let her family get depressed or bitter, and she brought beauty into the house. She collected rags and tore them into strips and braided a rug because the [floor was] raw wood. But as far as sharing emotional reactions, she said, “Exactly the way Daddy felt.”

I want to ask about when your parents decided to become No-Nos—how they answered “no” to two questions on the loyalty questionnaire. Can you tell me a bit about that and also about why your parents felt that answering that way was so important?

I don’t know what made me wake up one night. My parents hovered over a kerosene lamp and were talking in whispers, and I heard my mother’s sniffling. I thought she was crying, and I said, “Mama, don’t cry.” And they quickly came over to my bed and said, “No, it’s all right, we’re talking about adult things.” I remember that, but I didn’t understand what that was about, and thinking back, I think that was when they were discussing the loyalty questionnaire. It was anguishing for them. Most of the 30 questions were innocuous questions, but two questions—27 and 28—turned all ten camps into turmoil. Question 27 essentially asked, Will you bear arms to defend the United States of America? This was being asked of my mother. My baby sister was barely becoming a toddler. I was six by that time. My brother was five. She was being asked to abandon us and bear arms to defend the country that’s imprisoning her family. It was preposterous. It was very sloppily put together.

Question 28, the following question, was one sentence with two opposite ideas. It asked, Will you swear your loyalty to the United States of America and forswear your loyalty to the emperor of Japan? We’re Americans. We never even thought of the emperor, much less swore loyalty to him. It was insulting and outrageous, but the government assumed that we had an inborn racial loyalty to the emperor. So if you answered, “No,” meaning, “I don’t have that loyalty to the emperor to forswear,” that “no” [would also] apply to the first part of the very same sentence: Will you swear your loyalty to the United States? If you answered, “Yes,” meaning, “I do swear my loyalty to the United States,” then that meant [it also would] apply to the second part: You were confessing that you had been loyal to the emperor and now were prepared to forswear it and repledge. [The No-Nos] said, “You know, I’m not going to take this. You can’t win either way. We’re going to answer the way we really feel: No, this is outrageous.”

My parents were both No-Nos, and because of that they were categorized as disloyal. It wasn’t disloyalty. They were standing on principal and outraged at the stupidity of those questions. But because of their no-nos, [the government] had to transfer us from an internment camp to what they re-categorized as a segregation camp. Tule Lake been one of the ten internment camps, but that was re-designated a segregation camp. It had three layers of barbed wire fence and a half dozen tanks patrolling the perimeter. This was stupid, ignorant overreaction. Those tanks belonged on a battlefield, not guarding American citizens who were goaded into outrage! They had already been assaulted enough with the freezing of bank accounts, imprisonment—all these other outrages—and then now to have tanks patrolling the perimeter…? It was an outrageous situation.

What percentage of people in that camp do you think were families?

More than half were children. There were bachelors there, too, but the majority were families and the majority were children, who weren’t [even] qualified to respond to the loyalty questionnaire. They were there with their parents.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


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They Called Us Enemy

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Prime Day kitchen deal and the cookbooks to go with it

Prime Day kitchen deal and the cookbooks to go with it

It’s Prime Day and my fingers are itching to shop, not work.  One of the deals on my radar is a popular kitchen gadget that speaks to my love of all things fried, but without the guilt.  It’s the Philips Twin TurboStar Technology XXL Airfryer*.  I’ve already got a smaller model air fryer, but this is the big daddy that can cook enough for a group in one go. With football season just around the corner, I’m trading up…

Whether you already own one of these fabulous fryers, or are getting a new one for yourself or a lucky gift recipient, below is some cookbook inspiration for making the most of it.

*The Prime Day deal on the Philips Twin TurboStar Technology XXL Airfryer with Fat Reducer, Analog Interface, 3lb/4qt, Black – HD9630/98 is good from Monday, July 15, 2019 at 7:00 pm PST until Tuesday, July 16, 2019 7:00 pm PST or while supplies last.

>See all Prime Day Deals

>Deals in Books


Philips Twin TurboStar Technology XXL Airfryer

This magnificent invention uses hot air to fry foods with little or no added oil.  It’s weird, but it works.  Things get crispy and golden, just as you’d expect from frying in oil.  This particular unit has a 3lb capacity, no preheating time, and the removable nonstick coated drawer and food basket are dishwasher safe. You can get more details and product specs here.

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The Skinnytaste Air Fryer Cookbook: The 75 Best Healthy Recipes for Your Air Fryer by Gina Homolka

Bestselling cookbook author and prominent blogger Gina Homolka’s Skinnytaste tagline is “light on calories, big on flavor.” While the air fryer is already way healthier than oil frying, leave it to Homolka to take it one step further, and still not skimp on taste. 75 recipes from an author who is a proven favorite with every new cookbook.

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Air Fryer Perfection: From Crispy Fries and Juicy Steaks to Perfect Vegetables, What to Cook & How to Get the Best Results by America’s Test Kitchen

That trusted group of cooks who do all the hard work of testing, re-testing, comparisons, and recipe revisions, are here to tell us everything we need to know about air frying. Yes, I know how to do tater tots and flautas in the air fryer, but ATK’s cookbook takes it way beyond couch snacks and sets up air fryer users for maximum success and usage.  75 recipes.

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The Essential Vegan Air Fryer Cookbook: 75 Whole Food Recipes to Fry, Bake, and Roast by Tess Challis

Surprised by this combination of machine and diet?  Don’t be. Vegans still like foods that are crispy and have that special something that only frying can give.  Air fryer, meet Tess Challis’ recipe for Sweet Miso-Glazed Brussels Sprouts. And Gooey Lemon Bars.  No meat necessary for this to become your favorite kitchen appliance in no time. 

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The “I Love My Air Fryer” Keto Diet Recipe Book by Sam Dillard

The Keto diet is more popular than ever and this new cookbook gives readers 175 recipes for using the air fryer to cook keto-friendly foods. Dillard also clears up any misconceptions around air frying, fats, and keto and shows readers how they can use this multi-purpose appliance in place of others in the kitchen. 

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Every Day Easy Air Fryer: 100 Recipes Bursting with Flavor by Urvashi Pitre

Pitre authored the bestselling Indian Instant Pot Cookbook and now she’s bringing a variety of global recipes to the table using an air fryer.  Every recipe in this cookbook can be made in an hour or less, and Pitre focuses on using fresh meats and vegetables to produce authentic flavors. A great starter cookbook for new air fryer owners or anyone looking to broaden their horizons with the one they’ve got.


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International Thriller Awards winners announced

International Thriller Awards winners announced

ITA.JPG

The winners of the 2019 International Thriller Writer Awards were announced over the weekend. The awards ceremony was held in New York at ThrillerFest XIV.

John Sandford hosted as 2019 ThrillerMaster, and Harlan Coben was presented with the 2019 Silver Bullet Award.

The International Thriller Awards are given by The International Thriller Writers (ITW), an honorary society of authors, both fiction and nonfiction, who write books broadly classified as “thrillers.” This includes murder mystery, detective, suspense, horror, supernatural, action, espionage, true crime, war, adventure, and similar subject areas.

Here is a partial list of finalists and winners (winners in bold):


jar.jpgBEST HARDCOVER NOVEL

Lou Berney — November Road (William Morrow)

Julia Heaberlin — Paper Ghosts (Ballantine Books)

Jennifer Hillier — Jar of Hearts (Minotaur Books)

Karin Slaughter — Pieces of Her (William Morrow)

Paul Tremblay — The Cabin at the End of the World (William Morrow)

chalk.jpgBEST FIRST NOVEL

Jack Carr — The Terminal List (Atria/Emily Bestler Books)

Karen Cleveland — Need to Know (Ballantine Books)

Ellison Cooper — Caged (Minotaur Books)

Catherine Steadman — Something in the Water (Ballantine Books)

C. J. Tudor — The Chalk Man (Crown)

lost.jpgBEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL NOVEL

Jane Harper — The Lost Man (Pan Macmillan Australia)

John Marrs — The Good Samaritan (Thomas & Mercer)

Andrew Mayne — The Naturalist (Thomas & Mercer)

Kirk Russell — Gone Dark (Thomas & Mercer)

Carter Wilson — Mister Tender’s Girl (Sourcebooks Landmark)

killer.jpgBEST SHORT STORY

Jeffery Deaver — “The Victims’ Club” (Amazon Original Stories)

Emily Devenport — “10,432 Serial Killers (In Hell)” (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine)

Scott Loring Sanders — “Window to the Soul” (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)

Helen Smith — “Nana” in Killer Women: Crime Club Anthology #2 (Killer Women Ltd.)

Duane Swierczynski — “Tough Guy Ballet” in For the Sake of the Game: Stories Inspired by the Sherlock Holmes Canon (Pegasus Books)

==> You can see all of the 2019 categories and nominees here

==> Or see last year’s nominees and winners.


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Amazon’s best books of July: Today’s releases

Amazon’s best books of July: Today’s releases

Today’s releases include a provocative feat of journalism that provides an unflinching exploration of desire; a surreal psychological thriller with a deeply emotional core; a heart-wrenching novel about a unique family living off the grid in Appalachia Ohio; and one of the best white-knuckle reads of the summer. 

Learn more about these and all of our picks for the Best Books of the Month.


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Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

This will likely be one of the most talked about books of the year. Author Lisa Taddeo has spent eight years covering the lives of three women. There is Maggie, who met her lover when she was a seventeen-year-old high school student and he was a married schoolteacher. There is Lina, a mother of two who leaves her marriage and rekindles a flame with her high school sweetheart. And there is Sloane, gorgeous and happily married, whose husband likes to pick out her extramarital sexual partners. Taddeo is a talented journalist who thoroughly documents her subjects’ lives; but the language she employs is reaching higher than simple journalism. Likewise, with the subject matter: at first blush, this may seem like a book about sex. But really it is more about desire—and really it is about more than that. This book can be a profound read, but it is also just a good read. There will be moments when the words and the images make you forget that you even are reading; other times you will feel like you want to turn off the light and never speak to another human being again. But that would mean you wouldn’t get to talk about this book. –Chris Schluep


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The Need by Helen Phillips

Teeth-grindingly tense? Check. Mind-bogglingly surreal? Check. An ending you’re going to debate with your friends? Check. Helen Phillips playfully nudged the concepts of reality and fate in The Beautiful Bureaucrat, but this time she gives those concepts a big ol’ shove and then spins them like a top in The Need. When paleobotanist Molly uncovers strange artifacts at a dig—including a plastic toy soldier with a monkey tail and a Coke bottle with the letters slanted backward—the finds are intriguing but not alarming. But sleepless nights devoted to her two children under age 5, more weird discoveries, and inexplicable sounds twist into an acidic fear. And the source of these oddities, once revealed, is both more horrible and more sympathetic than Molly could ever imagine. Phillips makes motherhood a transcendent power even as she gives it a ferocious bite. Luckily The Need is a fast read, because I dare anyone to try to sleep after starting the first chapter. —Adrian Liang


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Stay and Fight by Madeline ffitch

Winter is coming! And if you’re on your own in Appalachian Ohio, you’d better come up with a good game plan. For Helen, this means enlisting recently displaced neighbors Karen and Lily, along with the couple’s precocious son, Perley, to create a homestead with her on 20 acres of land. Perley is an intrepid soul, and by the time he expresses interest in leaving their isolated existence to go to school, you’re almost used to his normal: living (and sometimes sleeping with) black rat snakes, minding the “humanure” pile, and foraging for dinner when the daily game of “survival dice” doesn’t win a trip to the grocery store. Social services, however, is decidedly more fazed, so when an innocent accident attracts their attention, the family’s imperfect, but preferred, utopia is upended. First-time novelist Madeline ffitch’s background as an environmental activist is evident in Stay and Fight, which deftly pivots from family drama to an encroaching political one that poses even more of a threat to their way of life. If that sounds stress-inducing, it is, but it’s tempered by the characterizations of this unconventional family, particularly the exquisitely endearing Perley, who is uniquely bonded to each member of this motley crew and provides the motivation behind the book’s title. Stay and Fight is an earnest and heart-wrenching celebration of family, and what it means to be free. –Erin Kodicek


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The Chain by Adrian McKinty

The Chain is one of those white-knuckle, stay-up-till-3 a.m. thrillers that keeps you reading feverishly because you just need to know how this one plays out. Part of the appeal lies in a fiendishly clever and original premise, a premise Adrian McKinty plots out flawlessly. Rachel is driving to an oncology appointment in the city when she gets a call from a panicked woman who says her child’s been kidnapped and that the only way to get him back is to join The Chain by kidnapping another child. So the woman has just kidnapped Rachel’s daughter, Kylie, from a bus stop. Now the only way to save Kylie and the caller’s child is for Rachel to join The Chain by kidnapping another child, whose parents will also be forced to kidnap a child…and so The Chain goes. Oh, and each must also send $25,000 in Bitcoin before the child will be released. Divorced, poor, a cancer survivor, and a working mom, Rachel is no one’s idea of a wealthy mark. But as with any parent, failure is not an option when your child’s life hangs in the balance. Before the last page is turned, Rachel, assisted by her ex-brother-in-law (a Special Forces veteran who’s hiding a secret), will cross lines she’s never crossed before. Ultimately empathy is the other ingredient that lifts this terrifying thriller a cut above—seeing ordinary people just like us trying to rise to extraordinary circumstances. —Vannessa Cronin


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Marko Kloos’ recent reads

Marko Kloos’ recent reads

MarkoKloos.pngIf you read military science fiction—or if you get book recommendations from George R.R. Martin—you likely already know Marko Kloos. His Frontlines series, which launched with Terms of Enlistment, focuses on the personal impact of war on the battlefield and beyond. Both red-hot action and deep soul-searching are the result of fighting aliens and, sometimes, your own people, as enlistee Andrew Grayson soon finds out.

This month Kloos embarked upon a new series with Aftershocks. A fiery insurrection threatens to unravel the hard-won stability of the Gaia system only five years after the last war ended—and just as the losing side’s prisoners of war are being released into society.

We took the opportunity to check in with Kloos to see what he’s been reading and loving lately.


Marko Kloos’ recent reads

My summer reading is a little curtailed this year because of a vicious attack by converging deadlines, but I did manage to get some reading in over the last few weeks. Here are the last three novels I’ve read on my Kindle Oasis, along with brief reviews.


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The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch

First in a best-selling series by a well-known German writer, this is a historical murder mystery that takes place in 17th-century Germany. It’s a dark tale about superstitions, belief, and the social dynamics of the age, seen through the eyes of the protagonist (a traveling executioner) and his scientifically minded, medically trained sidekick. A fast-paced narrative set in an uncommon time and place, it reminded me of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose.


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Rosewater by Tade Thompson

First book in the Wormwood trilogy by British author Tade Thompson, Rosewater is set in a near-future version of Nigeria, where a mysterious biodome has appeared that may or may not portend an alien invasion. An intriguing and inventive science fiction blend of mystery, psychology, and action, with shades of Arrival and Annihilation.


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Voyage of the Dogs by Greg van Eekhout

This is a stand-alone, a charming middle-grade science fiction novel. The protagonists are dogs called Barkonauts, trained to assist the human astronauts in their mission. When their spaceship fails and the humans go missing, the dogs must save the ship and the day. I read this with my daughter, who loved it so much that she named her new robotic toy dog Lopside after the canine protagonist. Two paws up!


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