November 2022 Stars & Big Picture
Starred titles are books of special distinction. See the archives for selections from previous months.
Bolden, Tonya Going Places: Victor Hugo Green and His Glorious Book; illus. by Eric Velasquez Quill Tree, 2022 [40p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9780062967404 $17.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* Gr. 4-8
Jackson, Tiffany D. The Weight of Blood. Tegen/HarperCollins 2022 [416p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9780063029149 $18.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9780063029163 $12.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* Gr. 8-12
Lamb, Sacha When the Angels Left the Old Country. Levine Querido, 2022 [408p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9781646141760 $19.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* Gr. 9-12
Miller, Tim Izzy Paints; written and illus. by Tim Miller. Balzer + Bray, 2022 [40p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9780063119758 $17.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* 3-6 yrs
Partridge, Elizabeth Seen and Unseen: What Dorothea Lange, Toyo Miyatake, and Ansel Adams’ Photographs Reveal About the Japanese American Incarceration; illus. by Lauren Tamaki. Chronicle, 2022 [132p] illus. with photographs
Trade ed. ISBN 9781452165103 $21.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* Gr. 6-12
See this month’s Big Picture for review.
Pinfold, Levi Paradise Sands: A Story of Enchantment; written and illus. by Levi Pinfold Candlewick, 2022 [40p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9781536212822 $18.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* Gr. 3-7
Scanlon, Liz Garton Lolo’s Light. Chronicle, 2022 [232p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9781797212944 $16.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* Gr. 6-8
Shusterman, Neal Gleanings: Stories from the Arc of a Scythe. Simon, 2022 [432p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9781534499973 $19.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9781534499997 $10.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* Gr. 8-12
Yaccarino, Dan City Under the City; written and illus. by Dan Yaccarino. mineditionUS, 2022 [68p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9781662650895 $18.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9781662650901 $10.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R* Gr. 2-4
Seen and Unseen: What Dorothea Lange, Toyo Miyatake, and Ansel Adams’ Photographs Reveal About the Japanese American Incarceration
Written by Elizabeth Partridge; illus. by Lauren Tamaki
With the ever presence of social media in modern life, visuals—from the mundane to the horrific—play an oversized role in how we understand and process the world. The never-ending stream of content can render individual images flat and indistinct, as pictures of birthday parties or homemade meals appear next to images of natural disasters or war-torn countrysides, stripping each of its emotional impact. Teens might feel this disconnect particularly keenly, having used photos or videos to document their lives, (or, for the more socially conscious, to galvanize protests and marches) while fending off (and sometimes caving to) the temptation to doom scroll into despair. Unfortunately, bearing witness to tragedy doesn’t inherently bring the power to change it, and it’s that tension, between empowerment and futility, that is explored in Tamaki and Partridge’s exquisitely crafted, fiercely provocative work of nonfiction, Seen and Unseen, which focuses on the works of three photographers as they documented the forced removal and internment of Japanese Americans on the West Coast during World War II.
In the years that followed FDR’s issuing of Executive Act 9066, Dorothea Lange, Toyo Miyatake, and Ansel Adams, each with different motivations and perspectives, photographed the initial and ongoing effects of FDR’s order. Commissioned by the War Relocation Authority, Lange, mostly known for her Depression-era work, was supposed to take photos that proved the roundup was humane, but instead her pictures revealed the tragedy of dislocated families and lost homes. So damning were her images that many were simply filed away, hidden by the government agency who had originally hired her. Meanwhile, Miyatake, imprisoned in the Manzanar War Relocation Center, used a makeshift camera with a smuggled lens to take pictures from his own perspective, documenting his fellow prisoners and their living conditions while attempting to keep himself and his family safe. Well-intentioned but sorely misguided, Adams also documented the Manzanar camp—but with posed portraits of happy Japanese and Japanese American people that he hoped would convince the American public they were “trustworthy and patriotic,” whitewashing a systematic, government-sanctioned act of oppression and racism.
The collaboration between noted biographer Partridge—also the goddaughter of Lange—and Tamaki deftly maintains a dual focus, on the historical events themselves and the lenses—quite literally—their three subjects saw those events through. Direct, candid text is stripped bare of any ornament and lays out the facts with focused precision; anecdotes and quotes are used judiciously, bringing a painful intimacy to the portraits of a large-scale act of cruelty. The narrative doesn’t just subtly examine the power structures at play but openly and forcefully calls them out: “War Relocation Authority rules said prisoners would ‘receive food, shelter, and medical and dental care.’ Of course they would. They were in prison.” The shifts in tone also make clear the difference of privilege among the three photographers; there is an aloofness and clipped measure to the sections on Lange and Adams that contrast against the intense immediacy of Miyatake’s experience.
The book’s true power, however, comes in its ability to show and not tell.The combination of the biographical subjects’ photographs, historical documents, and Tamaki’s gorgeous illustrations, in dappled textures and deep shadows, underscores both the camps’ bleak circumstances and the (sadly necessary) resilience of the people imprisoned there. Artistic mediums are juxtaposed with startling effect: Adams’ snapshots of smiling prisoners are placed next to inky silhouettes, followed by a visual inventory of what prisoners were given upon their release: a train ticket, twenty-five dollars, and departure instructions concluding with goodbye and “All good wishes go with you as you leave Manzamar.” Full spreads showcase a single medium’s ability to impart both information and emotion. A black and white photo of a dust storm at the camp is just as compelling as Tamaki’s red sky slashed with barbed wire; each feels significant and distinct.
The book ends with a wealth of backmatter, but more poignantly, a note on the myth of the model minority by Tamaki, who discusses how the photographs from the WRA and Adams moved that myth forward, portraying supposedly happy, respectable citizens who put the work in to properly assimilate while enforcing a notion that “one has to earn human rights through good behavior.” Interestingly, Tamaki’s observations also point to the power of images, whether photographs or drawings, to reinforce or oppose oppressive social dynamics, and readers will be left to consider how the media they create and consume informs their understanding of both the past and their present.
—Kate Quealy-Gainer, editor
Cover illustration © Lauren Tamaki from Seen and Unseen: What Dorothea Lange, Toyo Miyatake, and Ansel Adams’ Photographs Reveal About the Japanese American Incarceration; written by Elizabeth Partridge, used by permission of Chronicle Books.