I'm always a little skeptical of books about libraries - maybe being a librarian has made me too jaded. But this story isn't really about libraries, and it's not even really about books, although there is a gorgeously illustrated spread celebrating the breadth of imagination and worlds to be found within the pages of a book and the walls of a library.
No, this story is about love and humanity and injustice and the miracle of finding joy and hope in the midst of terrible realities of life. This is the (mostly true) story of Tama, the camp librarian, and George, who met and fell in love in Minidoka, a Japenese incarceration camp in Idaho. Tama's life is mostly the same from day to day - constant. But George's visits to the library are constant too, and every day he checks out more books than he could possibly read. He tells Tama there's a word for all her swirling emotions, the mix of fear, sadness,confusion, frustration, loneliness, and hopfulness - human. Tama comes to realize that he isn't visiting the library just for the books, and the two fall in love and marry and their first son is born in Minidoka.
Maggie Tokuda-Hall is the granddaughter of Tama and George, and her author's note includes historical context about the incarceration of Japanese Americans (with a photo of the main characters) and a strong reminder of the same fear and hate that exist today. She ends by asking the reader: "Because if we can fall in love, if we can find our joy, if we can find that miracle despite all of these truths -- What else can we do?"
And I confess - my jaded heart grew a little and my eyes teared up as I was reading this one.