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Imagine your country is at war. Now imagine everyone around you thinks you're the enemy. 


Mina Tagawa is just like any other American girl in middle school, sharing secrets with her best friend. But all that changes in December 1941 when Pearl Harbor is attacked. Suddenly her classmates are calling her a Jap, her father is arrested by the FBI, and newspaper headlines in Seattle and throughout the West Coast warn people not to trust Japanese Americans. Within weeks, Mina's family is forced to leave their home and sent hundreds of miles away to an internment camp. For the next three years they live under armed guard - Americans treated as enemies. This powerful novel in verse visits a little-known moment in our country's history with honesty that is both thought provoking and inspirational. 

dust of eden: a novel 

"Crystal-clear prose poems paint a heart-rending picture of 13-year-old Mina Masako Tagawa’s journey from Seattle to a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II... An engaging novel-in-poems that imagines one earnest, impassioned teenage girl’s experience of the Japanese-American internment." 

- Kirkus Review 

"I love how this story respects its readers. It's a hard thing to know, that the United States once treated our Japanese citizens this way. Mariko Nagai does not soften the reality of what happened, but by giving her main character a loving family and a loyal best friend, she makes it bearable for readers to take this journey with her. This is an important story, beautifully told." 

- Helen Frost, Printz Award Honoree and author of Salt and Crossing Stones

(albert whitman & co, 2014)

"Nagai captures a family in flux, caught in someone else’s blame, struggling to stay together, fighting to understand. ... Nagai’s crystalline phrases, stanzas, lines that barely cover 120 pages prove gorgeously resonating."

          - BookDragon, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center

"This is an honest and thoughtful exploration of a complicated chapter in American history, and the book’s strong narrative voice and solid imagery will help contemporary readers understand those complexities. A note provides further information about the Japanese-American internment."

          - the Bulletin for the Center of Children's Books

"Nagai’s poetic approach of course is both accessible on the one hand (for younger audiences) and also employs a dynamic method to bring to life the internment experience. Nagai’s work easily resonates alongside other poetic works such as Mitsuye Yamada’s Camp Notes and Other Writings and Lawson Inada’s Legends from Camp."

       - Asian American Literature Fans

"Nagai does a wonderful job examining what it means to Mina and her family members to be American while not being treated as true citizens."

            -  School Library Journal

But the book from Amazon or from your neighborhood independent bookstore.

Inclusion in the Girls of Summer Reading List 2015  Curated by Meg Medina and Gigi Amateau


This is a hard story to hear, and Nagai lets us in on Mina’s troubling experiences in a way that moves and unsettles us. These poems, letters, and brief essays give us a compelling picture … and we come away from the book changed …

         - “



Mina and her family are caught between rage and compliance. They struggle with knowing how to be both defiant and accepting. They question what it means to be both American and Japanese. This a powerful collection of pieces told from a young girl’s perspective, and we sense that her struggle to grow up is part and parcel of her struggle to understand and accept the shifts in America’s own perception of history and nationhood that are swirling in the Idaho dust all around her.”

          -            poetry-month


Best Older Fiction of 2014 – Chicago Public Library


One of the best New Middle Grade Novels of 2014

Christian Science Monitor



An important and powerful work that should be on the reading lists of middle-grade educators and librarians.”




"Crystal-clear prose poems paint a heart-rending picture ...engaging...earnest, impassioned." Kirkus


“Nagai’s writing is spare and rhythmic—it’s real poetry.” The Horn Book Magazine


“This historical novel in verse packs a wallop of an emotional punch.”


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