Fred Korematsu Speaks Up

By Laura Atkins ’92 and Stan Yogi; illustrations by Yutaka Houlette (Heyday 2017)

Reviewed by Katie Pelletier ’03
Fred Korematsu book cover

Fred Korematsu was a citizen born in the U.S. to Japanese immigrants. Growing up, he felt thoroughly American, but faced growing bias and anti-Japanese sentiment in pre-WWII Oakland, California. When the Japanese Empire bombed Pearl Harbor, Fred and his community were forced to abandon their homes, businesses, and lives and report to internment camps. Fred Korematsu resisted the order and was later arrested and convicted of the crime of disobedience, a conviction he fought all the way to the Supreme Court. Although he lost this historic court battle, 40 years later, armed with evidence that federal prosecutors had lied during his court hearing, Fred Korematsu took up the fight again.

Fred Korematsu Speaks Up is an illustrated middle-grade biography that sold out its first printing in just two weeks. The biography is told in compact verse and interspersed with metanarrative sections that gloss terms, add biographical detail, elaborate concepts, and provide additional historical context. The authors extend the themes of the book by inviting young people to apply what happened in the past to their own lives, including tips that give young people pointers about how to speak out.

The book is the first in a series called Fighting for Justice. Laura says, “Now, as Heyday goes to reprint, my coauthor Stan Yogi and I are visiting schools around California, talking to children about how Korematsu’s life and work resonate today. We’ve already spoken to over 1,200 children, and it’s inspiring to see how engaged they are with Fred’s life and the idea of speaking up when you see injustice.”