Denver artist Sarah Fukami grew up hearing relatives’ stories about being among some 120,000 Japanese-Americans and Japanese living in the United States during World War II who were forced from their homes on the U.S. West Coast and elsewhere and held without charge or due process in barracks-like camps.

She knows many other camp survivors refused to talk about their experiences, out of shame or for fear of stoking resentment in their children and grandchildren. Fukami said her family shared their stories as a lesson that “sometimes bad things will happen to you, but you can persevere.

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I’m impressed with the optimism that people in Montrose, the small-town setting of my new book, have brought to problem-solving. They make pessimism look like a luxury.

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The current vilification of Muslims and of immigrants from Latin-America echoes painfully. Asians in the 19th and 20th century were seen as incapable of being truly American. Survivors of camps where Japanese-Americans were incarcerated without due process during World War II have insisted that what happened to them be remembered and that it informs efforts to ensure the Constitution protects all who live in America or seek to make a life here.

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I went to Montrose, Colorado to find out more about this town’s efforts to help military veterans reintegrate into civilian life. I did, and wrote a book. I also got lessons in parenting — from fathers and mothers.

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Retired Master Sergeant Sandra Brownlee once trained young soldiers to think of themselves as “superheroes.” 

“We’re taught that way for a reason,” she told me. “So that when it’s time to go out and defend this country or any other country, we don’t lose focus.”

Brownlee believes that those who have completed their service remain capable of anything. That informs her new vocation of helping fellow veterans reintegrate into civilian life.

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Tomi Adeyemi tells an intricate story. Nuanced characters move through a remarkably realized world. A fantasy fan could find escape in her debut novel Children of Blood and Bone with little regard for subtext, or be nudged toward new understanding.

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Reading Priya Sharma’s first collection of short stories All the Fabulous Beasts, I found myself thinking fairy and folk tales were the first fantasies, with snakes and birds masquerading as human, and gods getting involved in human dramas, as they do in Western and Eastern mythologies.  Sharma’s influences include Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, a reworking of classic fairy tales that she found “beautifully written and actually quite subversive as well.”

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