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Clark and Division (A Japantown Mystery #1) (Paperback)
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August 2021 Indie Next List
“Clark and Division is a propulsive mystery and a heart-wrenching examination of Japanese internment and relocation in the 1940s. Hirahara beautifully weaves history and injustice into this fascinating and compelling crime novel.”
— Luisa Smith, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA
A New York Times Best Mystery Novel of 2021
Set in 1944 Chicago, Edgar Award-winner Naomi Hirahara’s eye-opening and poignant new mystery, the story of a young woman searching for the truth about her revered older sister's death, brings to focus the struggles of one Japanese American family released from mass incarceration at Manzanar during World War II.
Chicago, 1944: Twenty-year-old Aki Ito and her parents have just been released from Manzanar, where they have been detained by the US government since the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, together with thousands of other Japanese Americans. The life in California the Itos were forced to leave behind is gone; instead, they are being resettled two thousand miles away in Chicago, where Aki’s older sister, Rose, was sent months earlier and moved to the new Japanese American neighborhood near Clark and Division streets. But on the eve of the Ito family’s reunion, Rose is killed by a subway train.
Aki, who worshipped her sister, is stunned. Officials are ruling Rose’s death a suicide. Aki cannot believe her perfect, polished, and optimistic sister would end her life. Her instinct tells her there is much more to the story, and she knows she is the only person who could ever learn the truth.
Inspired by historical events, Clark and Division infuses an atmospheric and heartbreakingly real crime with rich period details and delicately wrought personal stories Naomi Hirahara has gleaned from thirty years of research and archival work in Japanese American history.
About the Author
Naomi Hirahara is the Edgar Award–winning author of the Mas Arai mystery series, including Summer of the Big Bachi, which was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year and one of Chicago Tribune’s Ten Best Mysteries and Thrillers; Gasa Gasa Girl; Snakeskin Shamisen; and Hiroshima Boy. She is also the author of the LA-based Ellie Rush mysteries. A former editor of The Rafu Shimpo newspaper, she has co-written non-fiction books like Life after Manzanar and the award-winning Terminal Island: Lost Communities of Los Angeles Harbor. The Stanford University alumna was born and raised in Altadena, CA; she now resides in the adjacent town of Pasadena, CA.
Praise for Clark and Division
Winner of the Mary Higgins Clark Award
Winner of The Lefty Award for Best Historical Novel
Nominated for the Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel
An Anthony Award Nominee for Best Novel
Reader's Digest 60 Best Books Written for Women by Female Authors
A New York Times Best Mystery Novel of 2021
A Parade Magazine 101 Best Mystery Books of All Time
A New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice
A Washington Post Best Mystery and Thriller of 2021
A South Florida Sun-Sentinel Best Mystery Novel of 2021
A Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Best Book of 2021
Barnes & Noble Best Books of 2021
Amazon Best Mysteries and Thrillers of 2021
A CrimeReads Best Crime Novel of 2021
New York Public Library Best Books of 2021
A BookPage Best Mystery & Thriller of 2021
An ABA Indie Next Pick
2021 ABA Indie Next List Genre Gift Guide
An Amazon Best of the Month for Mystery/Thriller
An Apple Best Books of the Month
Bustle's Most Anticipated Books
“Searing . . . This is as much a crime novel as it is a family and societal tragedy, filtering one of the cruelest examples of American prejudice through the prism of one young woman determined to assert her independence, whatever the cost.”
—Sarah Weinman, The New York Times Book Review
“Just as only James Ellroy could have written the Los Angeles Quartet and only Walter Mosley could have crafted Black Angelenos’ experiences into the Easy Rawlins mysteries, crime novelist and research maven Naomi Hirahara was destined to write Clark and Division . . . The vibrant characters, the history and the aura of determined optimism that permeate the novel make it feel like the beginning of a saga not unlike Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs mysteries.”
—Paula Woods, Los Angeles Times
“Hirahara has drawn a devastating picture of a family in crisis and a nation’s monumental blunder.”
—The Washington Post
“Engrossing . . . The best historical fiction shows how events affected the people who lived that era. Hirahara’s Clark and Division ranks high.”
—Oline Cogdil, The South Florida Sun-Sentinel
“A novel Naomi Hirahara was destined to write . . . Hirahara gives us a rich and vibrant portrayal of Nisei life in multicultural Chicago: the nightclubs, the hoodlums, the young people looking for connection, looking for their place in a world that up until previously had not merely excluded them but incarcerated them.”
—Désirée Zamorano, Los Angeles Review of Books
“A heart-pounding read for thriller aficionados, true-crime buffs and anyone who wants to learn more about the bitter history of Japanese Americans in the 20th century.”
“This WWII-set story of a woman trying to uncover the truth about her sister’s death against the backdrop of the brutal internment of Japanese-Americans is simply Hirahara’s most deeply felt and satisfying book to date.”
“Aki is an engaging and complex character . . . An impressive historical novel, but it’s also sadly timely, as we see the old baseless bigotry awakened again among the fearful and the violent.”
—Tampa Bay Times
“This absorbing historical fiction, by the Edgar-winning author of the excellent Mas Arai series, vividly brings to life the experience of being Japanese American during World War II — a shameful chapter of casual racism, fear and distrust that continues to echo today.”
—The Seattle Times
“The crime-solving is absorbing, but the novel works more compellingly as an informed portrayal of life in crisis among a group of American citizens who learned the hard way that, in certain circumstances, democracy doesn’t apply to them.”
“Absorbing . . . The sisters’ dramatic and gripping story enriches the reader’s understanding of a problematic time, and highlights the vulnerabilities of socially marginalized young women, yet the novel is never didactic or preachy. In seeking justice for Rose, undaunted by unexpected obstacles, and learning from her own missteps along the way, Aki blossoms into a beautiful, resourceful, and brave young woman.”
—Mystery Scene Magazine
“Aki’s grit, determination, and optimism recall Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs or Charles Todd’s Bess Crawford and make Clark and Division one of the more enlightening World War II–era mysteries in recent memory.”
“In a complex, layered text, Hirahara incorporates historical details behind internment with a nail-biting plot . . . Hirahara doesn’t shy away from her roots, looking at internment through a never-seen-before lens and showing readers what it means to be American.”
“Gripping . . . This immersive true-crime historical mystery novel takes place in Chicago in 1944, at the height of the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans.”
“Meticulous . . . A wonderful portrait of Japanese American resilience and struggle.”
“Clark and Division is a moving, eye-opening depiction of life after Manzanar. Naomi Hirahara has infused her mystery with a deep humanity, unearthing a piece of buried American history.”
“Crime fiction is at its best when telling a compelling story while also analyzing the shadowy foundations of human nature. Very few writers do that better than Hirahara.”
—S.A. Cosby, The Washington Post
“A beautifully written novel. A telling and touching story that echoes across the decades. Naomi Hirahara uses the past to inspire us to be relentless in doing the right thing, right now.”
—Michael Connelly, bestselling author of the Harry Bosch series
“Naomi Hirahara’s Clark and Division opened my heart and mind to specifics of the experience of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. Rich in period detail, it is page-turning historical fiction, a tender family story, and a mystery that plays on two levels: What happened to Rose Ito? and At what cost are Japanese Americans finally seen as full Americans? It’s a story that moved me deeply.”
—Attica Locke, New York Times bestselling author of Heaven, My Home
“Part historical fiction, part thriller, all a deeply moving family story, set in 1944 Chicago against the backdrop of the shameful treatment of Japanese Americans by the US government. Hirahara’s gifted writing is a master class in how to bring a historical epoch to life.”
—Sara Paretsky, bestselling author of the Chicago detective VI Warshawski series
“Beautifully written and deeply moving . . . Hirahara’s novel is an accomplished and important story about a time in American history that I felt privileged bearing witness to.”
—Carole E. Barrowman, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“Clark and Division does what crime novels do best: It uses a wonderfully wrought, ticking time-bomb of a story to illuminate a larger social issue, in this case the incarceration and resettlement of tens of thousands of Japanese Americans during World War II. A jewel of a novel. Buy it, read it, enjoy it.”
—Michael Harvey, author of The Chicago Way
“Clark and Division is a heart-stopping crime novel woven inextricably into another, much larger atrocity: the treatment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. The story of Aki Ito and her family, newly released from Manzanar, transports us to an often ignored moment in our own history, while holding a mirror to the present day. In this immersive and resonant tale, Naomi Hirahara has given us the very best of what we hope for from historical crime fiction: a novel that is both intensely researched and deeply felt. It is the story of a crime—many crimes—but it is also the story of a young woman's courage and triumphant spirit. Aki Ito is the kind of heroine that belongs not just to the past, but to every generation. We see ourselves in her tenacity, her sense of justice, and her love for her family.”
—Amy Stewart, New York Times bestselling author of the Kopp sisters novels
“One part mystery. One part historical fiction. In Naomi Hirahara’s expert hands that 1+1 equation somehow equals 10, leaving you with a story that is enthralling, enlightening, and edifying.”
—Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
“Like no other work before, Clark and Division captures the day-to-day uncertainty of the post concentration camp Nisei world, where poverty, racism, and squalid living conditions co-exist with freedom, excitement, and dreams for a better future in wartime Chicago. Only Naomi Hirahara can mix a portrayal of a people in transition that feels authentic down to the smallest detail with an engrossing mystery filled with unexpected twists. Whether you are already a fan or are about to become one, this is not to be missed!”
—Brian Niiya, editor of the Densho Encyclopedia and Encyclopedia of Japanese American History
“Clark and Division is as much about communal trauma as it is about the anguish of the Ito family, who are at the story’s center. The grief of the Japanese community in Chicago infuses the atmosphere of this novel, offering a compelling, nuanced tale of loss.”
—BookPage, Starred Review
“The treatment of American citizens of Japanese descent during World War II comes to life in this mystery by Hirahara . . . Hirahara does a masterly job of incorporating extensive historical research into an emotionally compelling story. Highly recommended for readers who enjoy high-quality historical fiction with well-drawn characters and an engrossing plot.”
—Library Journal, Starred Review
“A rich blend of historical fiction and mystery . . . filled with memorable detail.”
“Clark and Division fills a void in our community history. The pre-war and post-war experiences that shape an individual’s character are often missing in our collective history. Hirahara’s non-fiction writing and research provides a solid framework for connecting these links. Hirahara masterfully weaves the story.”
“Based on years of meticulous historical research, this resonant, bracing mystery from the author of the Edgar-winning Mas Arai series explores rising anti-Asian sentiment in the 1940s.”
“The author brings this terrible period in history to life with rich and unsettling historical detail. It’s a terrific thriller you won’t be able to put down.”
—The Waterloo Record
“Rich in detail about the lives of relocated Japanese—the jobs they find, the places they live, the streets they walk, the people they encounter—and the city of Chicago and its neighborhoods in the 1940s.”
—Historical Novel Society
“This gripping mystery weaves evocative details about post-internment life into a moving family story.”
“A thought-provoking novel featuring a Japanese American family transitioning from World War II imprisonment to resettlement in 1940s Chicago.”
“Part historical fiction, part thriller, Clark and Division is the moving and fast paced story about one sister seeking justice for another sister, against the backdrop of World War II. You haven’t read anything like this before . . . Atmospheric and heartbreakingly real.”
“An enlightening novel that immerses you in a time and place, as well as keeping you turning the pages to find out what happened to Rose.”
—The Auburn Citizen
“Through the prism of one young woman’s experiences, readers relive one of our country’s cruelest examples of prejudice as they are simultaneously drawn into a devastating family drama.”
“Elegant prose matches the meticulous research. This well-crafted tale of injustice isn’t just for mystery fans.”
“Deeply researched . . . Hirahara peppers the mystery with a detail-rich portrait of Chicago during the war and of newly arrived Japanese Americans trying to negotiate a largely hostile new world.”
“An effective whodunit that’s also a sensitive coming-of-age story.”
“A perfectly-crafted and intensely atmospheric historical murder mystery set in the displaced Japanese-American community resettled to Chicago after being released from WWII internment camps.”
“[Clark and Division] is a fine mystery with an appealing amateur sleuth, but it’s as a work of historical fiction that it really shines. It is highly recommended to fans of historical fiction, especially World War II titles featuring exceptional women, readers of mysteries where most violence occurs off-stage, and readers who enjoy coming-of-age stories.”
—MAD Reads (Madison Public Library)
“If you've never read about the lives of Japanese Americans during World War II, you should read Naomi Hirahara's Clark and Division . . . Mystery, character study, history . . . A story that you won't want to put down until you've read the very last page.”
Praise for Naomi Hirahara
"Hirahara's well-plotted, wholesome whodunit offers a unique look at L.A.'s Japanese-American community, with enough twists and local flavor to keep you guessing till the end."
“A brilliant, unique addition to mystery fiction, [Mas Arai] has straddled time, place, and culture, with roots in one of the most terrible acts of violence war has ever inflicted upon humanity. And Mas has prevailed while growing older in a country that does not always value the wisdom of its elders, or those who work with their hands . . . Kudos to Naomi Hirahara.”
―Jacqueline Winspear, author of the New York Times–bestselling Maisie Dobbs mysteries
"Like a Zen poet, Hirahara creates a quiet surface with a powerful storm beneath.”
―William Kent Krueger, New York Times–bestselling author of the Cork O’Connor mysteries
"In an age in which too many books are merely echoes of previous books, Naomi Hirahara has the distinction of writing a mystery series that is unlike any other . . . Mas Arai is one of the freshest, most realistic and fascinating characters in the mystery genre."
—David J. Montgomery, Chicago Sun-Times
"A shrewd sense of character and a formidable narrative engine."
—Dick Adler, Chicago Tribune
"Poetic, affective and artful."
—Tom Nolan, Orange County Metro Magazine
"The offbeat characters are engaging, the humor gentle, the cultural insights many, and the writing briskly skilled."
—Patricia McFall, San Gabriel Valley Newspapers
“Seamless and shyly powerful . . . Peppered with pungent cultural details, crisp prose and credible, fresh descriptions . . . [A] perfectly balanced gem.”
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review