Inspired by a true story, this graphic novel follows a Jewish immigrant’s efforts to help his Japanese neighbors while they are incarcerated during World War II.
“A powerful book about advocating for friends and neighbors during times of great division.” —Kazu Kibuishi, #1 New York Times bestselling author-illustrator of the Amulet series
Introduction by award-winning author Ken Mochizuki
Afterword by Devin Naar, author of Jewish Salonica
Marco Calvo always knew his grandfather, affectionately called Papoo, was a good man. After all, he was named for him. A first-generation Jewish immigrant, Papoo was hardworking, smart, and caring. When Papoo peacefully passes away, Marco expects the funeral to be simple. However, he is caught off guard by something unusual. Among his close family and friends are mourners he doesn’t recognize—Japanese American families—and no one is quite sure who they are or why they are at the service. How did these strangers know his grandfather so well?
Set in the multicultural Central District of Seattle during World War II and inspired by author and artist Josh Tuininga’s family experiences, We Are Not Strangers explores a unique situation of Japanese and Jewish Americans living side by side in a country at war. Following Marco’s grandfather’s perspective, we learn of his life as a Sephardic Jewish immigrant living in America and his struggles as he settles into an America gearing up its war efforts. Despite the war raging just outside US borders, Papoo befriends Sam Akiyama, a Japanese man who finds his world upended from President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066. Determined to keep Sam’s business afloat while he and his family are unjustly incarcerated, Papoo creates a plan that not only changes the lives of the Akiyamas but of the entire Nihonmachi community.
An evocative and beautiful color-illustrated historical fiction graphic novel revealing the truth of one man’s extraordinary efforts, We Are Not Strangers converges two perspectives into a single portrait of a community’s struggle with race, responsibility, and what it truly means to be an American.
“As a son of Japanese American parents who were incarcerated during World War II, I grew up in Seattle’s Seward Park neighborhood with many Jewish classmates and friends. There was a closeness and quiet understanding we shared knowing the difficulties our communities suffered during the war. This book beautifully uncovers a deep emotional connection between our communities that is known by few and—I promise—will leave you changed forever.”Tom Ikeda, founding executive director of Densho
“Allyship takes many forms. From a scrap of family folklore, Josh Tuininga imagines a better world in which those targeted on the basis of race could count on their neighbors—a story all the more meaningful as we are called upon to stand with others who are demonized in the present moment. Seattleites will recognize the look of places long gone and some that remain.”Frank Abe, coauthor of We Hereby Refuse: Japanese American Resistance to Wartime Incarceration
“Grounded in the historically diverse Central District of Seattle, Josh Tuininga’s We Are Not Strangers intertwines the stories of a Japanese American family and a Sephardic Jewish family, revealing deep personal loyalty against a backdrop of racist accusations of disloyalty. Based on careful research into both communities, this book shines a light on how world events challenged both families and how one individual’s act of quiet resistance impacted many.”Ellen Eisenberg, author of The First to Cry Down Injustice?: Western Jews and Japanese Removal Durin
“As sparing as it is moving, as memorable as it is timely, We are Not Strangers is beautifully drawn and evocatively told. This story is fascinating, important, and too little known—I learned so much about communities I’ve long been part of and neighbor to—but even better, it tells a different kind of love story, a different kind of hero story, a different story about race and immigration and community, which surely is what the world needs now. Josh Tuininga has made magic here.”Laurie Frankel, New York Times bestselling author of This Is How It Always Is and One Two Three
“The tones and texture of the artwork is intimate, tactile, and forlorn. Reading We Are Not Strangers feels like finding some dusty artifact of loss and fortitude in an attic.”Jonathan Fetter-Vorm, author of Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb
“We are Not Strangers inspires readers to treat fellow human beings with fairness and dignity. Tuininga wonderfully succeeds in showing and telling a real story with real people in a real time.”Sharon Hashimoto, author of The Crane Wife and More American