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A Girl Like You: A Novel by Maureen Lindley
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A Girl Like You: A Novel

by Maureen Lindley

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After her dad's killed fighting at Pearl Harbor, Satomi and her mother are sent to a Japanese internment camp where--despite the harsh conditions and complete lack of privacy--she finds a community for the first time.

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This book is the story of Satori Baker the daughter of an American father and a Japanese mother who meet in Hawaii but move to a small town in California where Satori is born. Satori struggles to fit into this society not liking the strict rules of her father and not being completely accepted by the community. When war breaks out her father is killed in the Pearl Harbour attack and Satori and her mother are sent to an internment camp Manzanar in Nevada. The book tells of Satori's life in the camp and her struggle to fit in after her release from the camp. I thought the part of the book that dealt with life in the camp where conditions were basic and privacy was non existant were really well done. The families did their best to cope there and build some sort of a life for themselves and we see Satori really enjoying her work in the orphanage and becoming distraught when she has to leave the camp and cannot adopt Cora the child she has bonded with and take her with her. Life was never easy for Satori. On leaving the camp she discovers that the farm and family dweilling have been appropriated by others and she, now alone,must try and make a fresh start with nothing. Her mother had died in the camp. There were times when the book dragged a little and I have to say I liked the part in the camp better than what followed although I did want Satori to succeed and find her place in the world. I do enjoy books with some historical context to them. This one did provoke anger at the way the Japanese were treated. I notice others have commented on the Garden of Stones which I will now try and read to compare. Another book with a similar theme is Hotel on the corner of bitter and sweet by Jamie Ford. This also deals with the Japanese internment camps. ( )
  kiwifortyniner | Mar 14, 2014 |
When I received my copy of A Girl Like You, I was excited about reading more about the experiences of Japanese-Americans being interned at Manzanar camp during World War II. I whet my appetite earlier this year reading a similarly-themed book (Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield).

A Girl Like You opens in Angelina, a small Californian town just before America’s entry into World War II. The main character Satomi Baker is half Japanese, half American and is not really sure where she fits into society. Is her place with the Japanese kids or with the Caucasians? Will she ever be classed as ‘normal’? Racial tension is already building in the town and after Satomi’s father Aaron joins the American Navy (only to be killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor); the family’s days in Angelina are numbered. Her mother, Tamura, is no longer welcome in town and Satomi stops attending school. Later, the pair learn through their neighbour that all the Japanese people are to be sent to a camp. It’s not negotiable, and they are limited in the amount of treasured belongings they can take with them.

The Manzanar camp is like nothing else the Bakers have ever experiences. There is virtually no privacy (none of the latrines have doors) and the walls between families in the barracks muffle none of the neighbours’ sounds. People must queue for everything – even for a shower or dinner in the mess hall.

Satomi finds it difficult to adjust, but eventually finds some interest working with the local doctor, but her heart belongs to the orphanage. It is here she makes a lifelong friend in the local doctor and another in the orphan Cora. Life inside the camp is difficult and anti-Japanese sentiment is rife on the outside. Can Satomi survive life in Manzanar and post-war America?

One of the things that amazed me about this book is that Maureen Lindley really doesn’t shy away from doing nasty things to her characters! Throughout the book, I really felt for Satomi as her life seemed to be one injustice after another. How much can one woman take in life – sorrow, mistreatment and grief combined? I think my response to Satomi’s fate also shows just how likeable she is as a character (even though some of the other characters find for bold and lacking respect). I rejoiced with Satomi when she found love and at other times, wanted to shake some sense into her for the stupid decisions she made!

I found the pre-Pearl Harbor part of A Girl Like You had a very slow pace. I understand that this part was necessary to establish the story and show the reader how Satomi fitted in (or didn’t). I didn’t find the plot overly gripping or interesting (the Satomi sneaking off with boys isn’t really repeated later in the book – what is it meant to signify? We know Satomi’s often told things ending with ‘…for a girl like you’ but she’s not like that). For me, the narrative pace improved dramatically when Tamura and Satomi were forced to leave Angelina for the camp. The plot kept up this pace for the rest of the book and I was enthralled, reading this emotional journey.

Another part of the book I enjoyed was that the story didn’t end when Satomi left Manzanar. It was fascinating to see her rebuild her life from nothing, see how she was accepted and who held on to their prejudices. I suppose a comparison with Gardens of Stones is inevitable, but I found A Girl Like You went much deeper into life at Manzanar and the spirit of those held there. It also went into much more detail for the post-World War II years. Both novels deal with incredible emotions and life changing journeys, but they are quite different in what happens to the main characters. I’d recommend reading both if you are interesting in reading about (fictional) life at Manzanar.

I’d love to read more of Satomi’s journey, but I think Lindley ended this book perfectly. Persevere past Pearl Harbor in this book and you will be rewarded with a sensitively rendered account of one girl’s journey.

Thank you to Bloomsbury Sydney for the copy of this book.

http://samstillreading.wordpress.com
  birdsam0610 | Sep 3, 2013 |
Satomi, half Japanese half American, is forced into an internment camp after Pearl Harbor. She finds herself struggling to keep her Mom afloat in a culture that she doesn't feel connected too.

I have mixed feelings about this book. It was an interesting story but it moved at a really slow pace. The author often switched points of view without warning, without a break, which tended to be a bit confusing and annoying. I found myself in the middle of a paragraph and suddenly realize that she has switched to another character. I think with a bit of editing and polish this could be a fantastic book. ( )
  JanaRose1 | Aug 6, 2013 |
If I hadn't read Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield late last year, I suspect I would have found A Girl Like You more affecting. Instead, my reaction to this story of loss, prejudice, love and survival is somewhat blunted by the similarities in the plot and characters between the two novels.

In A Girl Like You we are introduced to thirteen year old Satomi Baker and her family who live in a rural town on the coast of California. Satomi's father, Aaron, is a white American who met her Japanese mother, Tamura, in Hawaii. With both families disapproving of their relationship, Aaron and Tamura moved to a farm in Angelina, where Satomi was born. Though Tamura has never been welcomed whole heartedly by the small town community as the threat of WW2 escalates, she and Satomi are ostracised, despite Aaron having volunteered to serve with the US Army and becoming a victim of the attack on Pearl Harbour.
Satomi, who considers herself American, is a feisty, precocious teenage who rebels against her father's strict rules. Though she acknowledges she is different to her peers she doesn't want to be and as the town begins to turn on Satomi and her family, she is hurt and angry.

Identity is an important theme explored in A Girl Like You, Satomi struggles with being half Japanese and the ways in which it makes her different from her peers, despite identifying as an American. Satomi is also in the grip of adolescence and trying to decide who she wants to be and what she wants for her future.

Shortly after Pearl Harbour, Tamura and Satomi are forcibly relocated to Manzanar, a government internment camp in Nevada for all those with Japanese ancestry. While the prisoners did their best to create some semblance of a normal life during their interment, Manzanar is characterised by poor sanitation, badly prepared food and substandard housing - little more than stalls, conditions thousands of internee's were forced to endure for years. The Japanese were watched over by armed guards, afforded little health care or educational or employment opportunities. It's a confronting historical circumstance post-WW2 generations are largely ignorant of and one which Lindley illustrates well.
Eventually the camps are emptied and the orphaned Satomi, whose family property and possessions have been 'appropriated' in their absence chooses to make a fresh start in New York. It is as Satomi remakes herself in New York that this novel fell apart somewhat for me, the focus switches to romantic developments which I found less compelling and somewhat trivial.

A Girl Like You is an appealing, poignant and fascinating story
combining a moving coming of age tale with historical and social commentary. Though I can't help comparing it to Littlefield's Garden of Stones due to the strong similarities, it does so favourably and I'd be happy to recommend it. ( )
  shelleyraec | Jul 22, 2013 |
Satomi Baker is not like other girls in her hometown. Born to a Japanese mother and Caucasian father, she does not fit into any one group. Too exotic and foreign for some, not Japanese enough for others, she takes solace in the close and loving relationship she has with her mother and her determination to survive at all costs. This philosophy holds her in good stead during World War II and long after, as she attempts to adapt to life within and eventually outside a Japanese internment camp and later in a big city. Maureen Lindley’s A Girl Like You explores this fractured period in American history and creates a coming-of-age story for the ages.

Humans are inherent survivors and immensely adaptable, and the Japanese “residents” of the internment camp are no different. Given the poorest of shelters in a harsh environment with only the most rudimentary sanitation and educational facilities, these “residents” find ways to create homes out of hovels, schools where none existed, and happiness when it seems most impossible. The conditions depicted and the treatment of those of Japanese heritage both within and outside the camps are eye-opening. Ms. Lindley does an excellent job presenting the facts and letting them tell the story rather than trying to force the facts to fit her agenda or narrative.

Much of A Girl Like You is about Satomi’s search for acceptance. At each phase in her life, she tries to find love and happiness, but it always seems to elude her. Her journey is a painful one for a reader, as a reader has no problems identifying what she most needs and the easiest path to get there. Like all coming-of-age stories, however, Satomi’s path to the same recognition is slow and convoluted. One of the main barriers to her happiness, and one that creates a distance between the reader and her, is her anger. This anger pushes others away throughout the novel, and it pushes away the reader. One can sympathize with her for feeling angry at the injustice of the treatment she receives from others throughout her life, but it is difficult to feel sorry for her. It is a minute distinction but one has a profound impact on how much of Satomi’s poor decisions one can accept.

While Satomi may not be the most enjoyable or sympathetic of main characters, the supporting characters who surround her make up for it. She befriends an eclectic bunch of people who add life to this somewhat depressing novel. Everyone from her first boyfriend to her friends in the internment camp to those she knows and loves in New York, they provide a cross-range of socio-economic and political backgrounds that help Satomi on her journey, while providing some much needed relief from her broodiness.

A Girl Like You is more than historical fiction and more than a coming-of-age story or a cautionary tale of bigotry and racial inequality. It is an ambitious study of one unique young woman who has the dubious pleasure of being of mixed heritages at one of the times when the U.S. was at its most phobic, a period that did not end when World War II ended. Satomi’s experiences provide heartbreaking proof that the U.S. is neither as tolerant or forgiving as some would have the world believe. Through Satomi and her mother, Ms. Lindley bravely refuses to sweep this shameful period in U.S. history under the rug but exposes it in all its disgrace.
  jmchshannon | Jun 19, 2013 |
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