About the Book
Author: Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu
Genre: Middle Grade Multicultural Novel
Number of Pages: 448
Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Publication Date: April 26, 2016
Synopsis: A beautiful and haunting debut novel in verse about an American-Japanese girl struggling with the loneliness of being caught between two worlds when the tragedy of 9/11 strikes an ocean away.
Eleven-year-old Ema has always been of two worlds—her father’s Japanese heritage and her mother’s life in America. She’s spent summers in California for as long as she can remember, but this year she and her mother are staying with her grandparents in Japan as they await the arrival of Ema’s baby sibling. Her mother’s pregnancy has been tricky, putting everyone on edge, but Ema’s heart is singing—finally, there will be someone else who will understand what it’s like to belong and not belong at the same time.
But Ema’s good spirits are muffled by her grandmother who is cold, tightfisted, and quick to reprimand her for the slightest infraction. Then, when their stay is extended and Ema must go to a new school, her worries of not belonging grow. And when the tragedy of 9/11 strikes, Ema, her parents, and the world watch as the twin towers fall…
As Ema watches her mother grieve for her country across the ocean—threatening the safety of her pregnancy—and her beloved grandfather falls ill, she feels more helpless and hopeless than ever. And yet, surrounded by tragedy, Ema sees for the first time the tender side of her grandmother, and the reason for the penny-pinching and sternness make sense—her grandmother has been preparing so they could all survive the worst.
Dipping and soaring, Somewhere Among is the story of one girl’s search for identity, inner peace, and how she discovers that hope can indeed rise from the ashes of disaster.
Ema is "between two worlds, Japan and America, binational, bicultural, bilingual, biracial." While vacationing in Japan with her parents, Ema learns that they will not be returning to American and now she must adjust to her new life in Japan. As a Japanese-American living abroad Ema realizes just how much she really is a part of two worlds and sometimes she's not certain which one she fits into, if any at all. Then 9/11 happens. Ema and her family watch the events unfold and are saddened and horrified as they watch the towers fall. The tragic events bring pain and sorrow from the past to the forefront and many in Japan begin to feel vulnerable and fearful for the safety of their country.
I don't recall ever reading a free-verse novel before and was not sure what to expect, but Somewhere Among is a heartfelt journey that easily captivates readers through simple, yet profound text as the life of a young girl is revealed. The story is told through the eyes of Ema, which I believe makes the book that much more compelling. Somewhere Among will make you smile, tug at your heartstrings, and bring you a sense of peace. It's a story of discovering yourself and making special connections with others and the world.
I highly recommend picking up a copy.