Fiction, Hesse-Karen, Historical Fiction, Social Commentary, WWII, Young Adult

#639 Aleutian Sparrow by Karen Hesse

Aleutian Sparrow by Karen HesseAleutian Sparrow by Karen Hesse

Vera’s mother is an Aleut and her father was white. They lived in the Aleutian islands. WWII came around and they were told they had to leave. Japanese fisherman would show up on the shores of their islands, taking measurements and watching. All the natives had to leave their islands and go to camps set up by the US government.

None of the camps are very good. There is poor heating, no plumbing to speak or, and terrible food. They ask if they can make the food better, but they’re not allowed.

Life soon comes to a strange normal for the camp dwellers, but they’re moved again. They’re put up in temporary cabins. They get jobs here and there. Disease comes though. Tuberculosis runs through the camps and many friends die. Vera is lucky to have her family, but her mother goes to work in town and it’s just Vera. It’s a good thing she has Albert.

Eventually, they’re allowed to return to their islands, some of them anyway, some of the villages are never lived in again. They pick up the pieces of their lives after the war and go on.

What I liked

I have never really thought about the Aleutian islands. I know they exist, but I just never think about them. I know they’re awfully close to Russia. It stands within reason that these islands would have been a strategic place for both Japan and Russia to eye up during WWII. I never knew the native people were forced out of their homes during WWII, which is just awful. I understand the concern for their safety. Those islands could have been bombed and then all these innocent people would be dead because the US government didn’t evacuate them. What I don’t understand is their poor treatment upon evacuation. It’s because they weren’t white. This is yet another piece of US history that we should definitely know about.

I loved the woodcut prints that were in the book for each place the people lived.

What I didn’t like

At least evacuate people to somewhere with working plumbing. Seriously. It’s not that difficult. Don’t evacuate people only to put them out in the cold and unsanitary conditions. There are reasons why so many of them got tuberculosis and died.

Conspiracy theorists think that the US government could round all of us up and take us somewhere, but they can’t even evacuate a few thousand people properly, go figure.


This is kind of a sad story.

Weigh In

Would the Aleuts have been evacuated to a better place had they been white?

Do you think there is ever any real danger of the Aleutian islands being taken over by another country?


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