Not enough room
for me to give
I crouch in my corner
clothes for three seasons
into my suitcase
pencil case, supplies box, assignments, notebooks, and textbooks
into my schoolbag
and slip my NASA pen into my pocket.
I do not want to go
to stay with Obaachan, my Japanese grandmother,
but it cannot be helped.
I pack my summer homework
shorts and swimsuit
to fly to Northern California with Mom
but this year
I am packing
on a school holiday
the longest day of the year
to go to western Tokyo.
I will miss six months of fifth grade at my school
I will miss our holiday by the sea with Papa before California
I will miss a whole month of having Mom’s old room to myself.
My friends will miss the cinnamon balls
wrapped in pepper-red plastic
I always bring back
JUNE 21, 2001
Eleven-year-old Ema has always been of two worlds—her father’s Japanese heritage and her mother’s life in America. She’s spent summers in California for as long as she can remember, but this year she and her mother are staying with her grandparents in Japan as they await the arrival of Ema’s baby sibling. Her mother’s pregnancy has been tricky, putting everyone on edge, but Ema’s heart is singing—finally, there will be someone else who will understand what it’s like to belong and not belong at the same time.
But Ema’s good spirits are muffled by her grandmother who is cold, tightfisted, and quick to reprimand her for the slightest infraction. Then, when their stay is extended and Ema must go to a new school, her worries of not belonging grow. And when the tragedy of 9/11 strikes, Ema, her parents, and the world watch as the twin towers fall…
As Ema watches her mother grieve for her country across the ocean—threatening the safety of her pregnancy—and her beloved grandfather falls ill, she feels more helpless and hopeless than ever. And yet, surrounded by tragedy, Ema sees for the first time the tender side of her grandmother, and the reason for the penny-pinching and sternness make sense—her grandmother has been preparing so they could all survive the worst.
Dipping and soaring, Somewhere Among is the story of one girl’s search for identity, inner peace, and how she discovers that hope can indeed rise from the ashes of disaster.
- Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books |
- 448 pages |
- ISBN 9781481437868 |
- April 2016 |
- Grades 4 - 7 |
- Lexile ® 840L
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Reading Group Guide
By Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu
About the Book
With a Japanese father and an American mother, eleven-year-old Ema has always been a part of both countries by living in Japan during the school year and spending summers in California. Ema’s life in Tokyo changes for the worse when her parents decide that she and her pregnant mother must move in with her Japanese grandparents the summer before 9/11 changes the world.
Dipping and soaring, Somewhere Among is a beautiful novel in verse that explores one girl’s search for identity and inner peace, as well as how to discover that hope can indeed rise from the ashes of disaster.
1. “Our bags sit by the door, ready. On the balcony I look up into our patch of sky. Goodbye, View. At the door, fighting tears, I look into our one room apartment. Goodbye, Home” (p. 3). What is Ema feeling as she says, “Goodbye, Home”? What is the definition of home? Do you know or have you encountered a time when you had to move? How did you feel?
2. “Papa would say I am one foot here, one foot there, between two worlds Japan and
America. There, Americans would say I am half . . . Here, Japanese would say hafu if they had to say something” (p. 7). Do you know anyone who has parents from two countries, cultures, or religions? see more