When Henry was young and attending a school in a white neighborhood, his father insisted that he wear a button that said “I Am Chinese.” At first, Henry thought that his father’s pride in their heritage was an embarrassment. But he soon realized that his father was concerned for his safety. It could be dangerous to be mistaken for a Japanese person during the war. Decades later, when the belongings of Japanese families who had been taken to internment camps are rediscovered in the basement of the Panama Hotel, Henry relives a part of his past that he has kept secret even from his son. For the first time, he shares his memories of life during the war and his forbidden friendship with a Japanese girl named Keiko.
Jamie Ford crafts a beautiful historical fiction novel with a mildly suspenseful plot, compelling characters, and a rich and immersive setting. I highly recommend this book to adult and teen readers who enjoy character-driven historical fiction.