And then the relocation authority comes for Layla and her parents. Their only crime is that they professed their faith on the census. So they are being sent to a camp, can pack only what they can carry and, of course, have to give up their phones.
Soon, they are on a train that will take them to the Owens Valley. From there, they board buses that take them farther into the desert.
The beginning of this story will feel uncomfortably familiar. Not only is it referencing our current political climate, but it also follows the path traveled by the Japanese-American families living on the Pacific coast in World War II. Right down to the fact that Layla and her family drive past Manzanar, which was the first Japanese internment camp to open during the war, on their way to their new camp.
I am very familiar with this event in history because my small community has the distinction of being the first place where the Japanese-Americans were removed from their homes. Layla and her family recreate their journey in many ways, including just how established the infrastructure of their removal to the camps is. There's a special train, buses, guards, numbers that identify your family and... at the end... there is a camp with "Mercury Homes"-- RVs-- instead of tar paper shacks but still organized into blocks around a mess hall.
And, just like the camps from 50 years ago, there is dust. Always dust.
There is no familiar historical script for Amin to follow once she has her characters at the camp, which is yet another uncomfortable place for the reader to be. We will not be watching our characters live in a camp until the war is over, because there is no declared war that we are dealing with here and we have no idea what the resolution will be.
The cover art has Layla wearing a baseball cap with the word "RESIST" on it and that is what she does, in spite of her parent's surprising hope that she will go along with camp administration's plans and goals. She is aided by an unlikely partner, one of the guards who's interest in helping her demonstrates that there are many others outside of the camp that are working to destroy the system from within,
There are many reasons why I think that this novel is going to be popular with my students. Layla is a strong heroine, the action is fast-paced and there is much to talk about in terms of comparing with history and with today as well.