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Blog Tour: Interview with Traci Chee, author of We Are Not Free

Blog Tour: Interview with Traci Chee, author of We Are Not Free

Hi everyone! Today I’m excited to participate in the blog tour of WE ARE NOT FREE by Traci Chee, organised by Colored Pages Bookish Tours! My tour post was supposed to be published yesterday, so I apologise for the delay. This OwnVoices young adult fiction is about the collective account of a tight-knit group of young Nisei, second-generation Japanese American citizens, whose lives are irrevocably changed by the mass U.S. incarcerations of World War II. We Are Not Free releases tomorrow from HMH Teen!

Read on to learn more about Traci Chee’s upcoming book We Are Not Free and lots more!

1. Hi Traci! Welcome to my blog! Can you tell me a little about yourself?

Hi there, and thank you for having me! I love dogs, mountains, good food, and I’ve recently taken up gardening, which has been a lovely, grounding experience in these uncertain times. I’m a speculative fiction writer by nature—I debuted in 2016 with The Reader, a YA fantasy set in a world where reading is literally magic—but for We Are Not Free, I’ve taken a hard left turn into historical fiction!

2. What made you decide to transition from YA fantasy to historical fiction? 

I go where the muse leads me! Actually, after wrapping up The Reader Trilogy, I’d planned on writing a literary post-apocalyptic YA fantasy, but then I got so consumed by this idea of writing a novel-in-stories about the Japanese American incarceration, which is part of my family history, that I pitched it to my agent anyway, and she was like, “Yes. Write that. Do that. Now is the time.” And she was so, so right.

3. What was your inspiration behind We Are Not Free? 

In 1942, a few months after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States’ entry into WWII, the federal government evicted more than 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry from their homes on the west coast and imprisoned them in incarceration camps without charges or trial. This part of American history is actually part of my own history, because my grandparents, who were teenagers at the time and American citizens by birth, and their families were incarcerated for three years in these camps. It’s something I’ve been wanting to write about for years—it just took figuring out how to actually do it!

4. What made you decide writing from 14 points of view?

I’d been trying to figure out how to write a book about the incarceration for years, but the more research I did, the more impossible it seemed. There were just so many stories, so many experiences, so many complex accounts and reactions, that I just could not figure out how to get all of them into a single novel from a single perspective! But then I realized I didn’t have to write just one main character… I could write fourteen. I could try to tell this kaleidoscope of stories and experiences and perspectives, and once I understood that, I knew how to begin.

5. I have only read – briefly- about the mass incarcerations of Japanese-American citizens during WWII in history books. What made you decide to write a book from the Nisei perspective? Why now?

I think there are a lot of Nisei—second-generation Japanese-American—experiences. Some of them were in their 20s and 30s at the time of the incarceration. Others were born in the camps. And I think that means there’s a wide variety of Nisei perspectives. For me, I chose to hone in on Nisei teenagers because, well, that’s the age my grandparents were when their lives were so drastically altered, and it must have been something, right? To feel American. To know you’re American. To have been sitting in your social studies classes, learning you had all these rights and freedoms because you were American. And then to have those rights and freedoms stripped from you? To be forced out of your homes and into incarceration camps? There are so many stories there, and I wanted to try to tell some of them.

6. Since this book is based on a very personal topic, was it difficult to write about it?

Absolutely. As part of my research, I interviewed a number of relatives who’d been in the camps, and many of their stories ended up inspiring moments in We Are Not Free. (One of my great Auntie Mary’s stories even inspired the title!) The whole time, I felt like it was such a privilege to have access to these stories, and that meant I also had this huge responsibility, even as I transformed these experiences into fiction, to tell them as authentically and respectfully as I possibly could. The whole process was such a gift, and I’m so grateful for it.

7. I liked that you didn’t translate most of the Japanese words. What was your thinking behind it? 

Thank you! These kids are bilingual, to varying degrees—at home, they’d certainly speak Japanese with their parents—which, to me, meant that they’d kind of flow back and forth between Japanese and English without even thinking about it, and I wanted to get that sense using both languages would be totally normal and effortless for them. I hope that creates an extra level of community and understanding for readers who know what these words mean, and if other readers go look them up, there should be a couple fun surprises.

8. Do you see yourself writing more YA historical fiction? If yes, then what events would you like to write about?

Definitely! I’m still waiting for the right project to come to me, but I’d love to explore more of my Chinese-American heritage too one day. 

9. Besides books, what topics can you talk non-stop about?

Dogs! Mountains! Good food!   

10. Before I let you go, can you tell us if you’re working on anything new?

I am working on something new! It’s unannounced as of yet, but I can tell you that the muse has been leading me back to the fantastical!

Thanks to the publisher for gifting me an ARC in exchange for my interview and to Colored Pages for including me in the blog tour!

– About the Author

Traci Chee is an author of YA fiction. An all-around word geek, she loves book arts and art books, poetry and paper crafts, though she also dabbles at bonsai gardening, egg painting, and hosting potluck game nights for family and friends. She studied literature and creative writing at UC Santa Cruz and earned a master of arts degree from San Francisco State University. Traci grew up in a small town with more cows than people, and now feels most at home in the mountains, scaling switchbacks and happening upon hidden highland lakes. She lives in California with her fast-fast dog.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

BUY LINKS: Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Amazon

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Blog Tour Schedule

Book Rambler – Welcome post & interview

Mellas Musings – Favorite quotes 

Debjani’s Thoughts – Review Only 

Sophie Schmidt – Review in GIFs

August 31st

The Reading Fairy – Review Only

Her Book Thoughts – Favorite Quotes

What Irin Reads – Review Only

September 1st

Sometimes Leelynn Reads – Author Interview 

The Confessions Of A Music And Book Addict – Review Only 

Emelie’s Books – Mood Board

Too Much Miya – Fanart /Art related to the story

September 2nd

Yna the Mood Reader – Favorite Quotes

The Writer’s Alley – Review Only

Marshmallow Pudding – Favorite Quotes

September 3rd

Div Reads – Reading vlog

Clairefy – Review Only 

Know Your Books – Favorite Quotes 

September 4th

READING (AS)(I)AN (AM)ERICA – Book Recommendations Based on Book 

Per_fictionist – Favorite Quotes

Mamata – Review Only

September 5th

Wilder Girl Reads – Review Only 

Lives In Books – Book Recommendations Based on Books 

A Fangirl’s Haven – Review Only

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Thank you for reading! Will you add We Are Not Free to your TBR or have you already read it? I’d love to know in the comments below! 


Author: Book Rambler

Hi! I'm Shalini. I am an avid reader, daydreamer, future scientist. In order to ramble about books with you, I created this blog. You can find me here and on any of my social media channels.

5 thoughts on “Blog Tour: Interview with Traci Chee, author of We Are Not Free”

  1. I have been hearing so many good things about this one. I am definitely adding this to my TBR right away. Great interview.


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