"Yes, I remember the barbed wire and the guard towers and the machine guns,
but they became part of my normal landscape. What would be abnormal
in normal times became my normality in camp."
Culminating a bitter-sweet epic and traditional coming-of-age story, Eyes Behind Belligerence sets precedence to fear and hatred, to families torn apart, and to the calloused response of internment camps. While two Japanese-American families endure the wake of Pearl Harbor’s wrath, each member must face the most painful question of their life: Where does their loyalty stand?
Told in five parts, this novel unravels the challenges between two unlikely Nisei friends, Jim and Russell, into adulthood during the Second World War. As restrictions are imposed, (even in the safe, rural community of Bainbridge Island,) as harassments escalate, (including the F.B.I. invading their homes and deporting their fathers to Montana for espionage trials,) the fated day arrives: evacuation of all Japanese civilians. Rounded up like cattle, tagged, they are hauled to the fringes of Death Valley: Manzanar. Together they must survive racism, gang violence, and the harsh elements of the environment. Together they must prove their loyalty, especially after a tragic riot on the eve of Pearl Harbor's anniversary. While Russell enlists in a segregated army, becoming part of one the most decorated units in U.S. history, Jim is sent to a different camp for the "No-No" boys: those who are marked disloyal. Removed from their families, they are forced to reevaluate their identities and discover, most importantly, what it means to forgive.
Kollenborn shows she’s done her research... She avoids easy moralizing while showing the injustice of the camps."
"Eyes Behind Belligerence is fascinating, and it shows the World War II period from a different perspective than most American history books. It is worth four stars."
"Eyes Behind Belligerence is a riveting read that should prove difficult to put down."
Cowper's Bookshelf, The Free Library
"Kollenborn’s writing style is fluid without being overly descriptive... Eyes Behind Belligerence, while lengthy, grabs the reader from the first page and leaves us with believable characters, setting, and plot. While the characters and certain events within the novel are fictional, they are historically true and “based” on real events, if you will. This aspect to the novel makes it feel grounded within reality and allows the reader to become emotionally connected with the story. "
One Title Reviews
"This should be required reading in all WWII history classes." Bookhound
"Eyes Behind Belligerence tells a powerful story about a part of American History that too few people know about... it’s one that everyone should read."
Gann Matsuda, Manzanar Committee
"This is a well-written book where words flow with visual imagery of human suffering and hope to redeem pride. The historical account is accurate with vivid scenes of evacuation under duress. An excellent read and highly recommended."
Lilian Gafni, Writer
"Eyes behind Belligerence is an inspiring story of loyalty, not to a national identity but to the family and friends in the community, with whom one shares a bond of suffering."
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman
"The brilliance in Eyes Behind Belligerence is Kollenborn’s ability to fuse wholly-absorbing details of daily life in a Japanese internment camp with a cast of characters who become the reader’s family. As a piece of fiction, it is an engrossing tale. Intimate, courageous and raw, it never misses an opportunity to impact the reader’s emotion." The Indie Book Blog
"I feel that this is an important book for readers who want to understand Japanese Americans. The descendants of Japanese Americans who were internees have grown up with parents and/or grandparents who were scarred by this tragedy. We can’t underestimate the impact of these events on them and their community." The Unmasked Persona Blog
"It was well-researched. Historical fiction is never easy because large parts of it are based on fact and the author did a fantastic job at blending fact and fiction. Second thing I liked was the way she used so many different characters. I had to keep checking the list in front to make sure I understood everything. Lastly, it was her writing. She described every scene as if it was a water colour painting and sometimes you forget that the book was about war."
Life Altering Reads Blog
"Ms. Kollenborn's story is epic in scale, profound in its commentary, moving in its characterisations. I give Ms. Kollenborn copious kudos for her passion, grit, and generous heart. Few authors are willing to make that sacrifice."
Ruth Francsico, Writer
"The author builds many of the characters up so that the reader can truly understand the context of the story, the hardships that they faced, and the difficult decisions that they were forced to make during this time. The story incorporates racism and loyalty toward two countries. It is a great read especially if you like historical fiction. It is extremely detailed - you will not miss a beat with this story." Kersten L. Kelly, Writer