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In this empowering deconstruction of the so-called American Dream, a twelve-year-old Japanese American girl grapples with, and ultimately rises above, the racism and trials of middle school she experiences while chasing her dreams.
As the daughter of immigrants who came to America for a better life, Annie Inoue was raised to dream big. And at the start of seventh grade, she’s channeling that irrepressible hope into becoming the lead in her school play.
So when Annie lands an impressive role in the production of The King and I, she’s thrilled . . . until she starts to hear grumbles from her mostly white classmates that she only got the part because it’s an Asian play with Asian characters. Is this all people see when they see her? Is this the only kind of success they’ll let her have—one that they can tear down or use race to belittle?
Disheartened but determined, Annie channels her hurt into a new dream: showing everyone what she’s made of.
Waka T. Brown, author of While I Was Away, delivers an uplifting coming-of-age story about a Japanese American girl’s fight to make space for herself in a world that claims to celebrate everyone’s differences but doesn’t always follow through.
Waka T. Brown was the first American born in her family. She is a Stanford graduate with a master’s degree in secondary education. She’s currently an instructor at the Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE), authoring curriculum on several international topics and winning the Association for Asian Studies’ national Franklin Buchanan Prize. She’s also been awarded the US–Japan Foundation and EngageAsia’s national 2019 Elgin Heinz Outstanding Teacher award for her groundbreaking endeavors in teaching about US-Japan relations to high school students in Japan and promoting cultural exchange awareness. While I Was Away is her debut book. She lives with her family in Portland, Oregon.
"This is a captivating coming-of-age story of determination. Brown eloquently addresses the history of Asian immigration, microaggressions, the model minority myth, stereotyping, and the impact of the lack of representation. An eye-opening, inspiring story of growing up, facing obstacles, and chasing your dreams anyway." — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Brown sensitively portrays Annie's shift from a girl who readily makes adaptations to fit in with the majority culture to a person who is fully aware of racial prejudice yet dreams of a bright future. This thought-provoking historical novel highlights issues faced by many Asian Americans, past and present." — Booklist (starred review)
"Brown paints a realistic picture of one Japanese American child’s experiences growing up in a mostly white town. Annie’s arc is an uplifting one as she traverses the highs and lows of friendship, middle school, and family expectations to fulfill her dreams, despite the bigoted thinking of people around her." — Publishers Weekly
"Annie's voice is so sweet, charming, and absorbingly addictive. I was mesmerized by her story, her troubles, and all of her dreams. I wish the book had never ended, but I know that she'll stick with me long after the last pages." — Van Hoang, author of Girl Giant and the Monkey King
"In this ultimately uplifting story, Brown describes the painful racism the Inoue family faces and their differing experiences of living in the United States." — Horn Book Magazine