After meeting Ms. Cheaney at a local book signing in Kansas City, I was delighted to read My Friend the Enemy, a young adult novel set during the turbulent years of WWII. The author is a native of Missouri (she lives in the Ozarks).
Hazel Anderson is a young girl who dreams about leading a squad of marines against enemy “jap” soldiers. When she isn’t in school, she’s scouring the skies above her Oregon home for signs of an expected Japanese invasion, or looking for signs of enemy spies.
Instead, she discovers a lonely Japanese boy hiding from the prospect of internment at a camp for Japanese-Americans. Hazel’s discovery will forever change the way she sees people. What does the enemy really look like? Can one tell friend from foe by the shape of a face, or the color of an accent?
Most of us who lived after WWII have ready access to facts and information about the events of the war. Countless books have been written; more than one cable channel delivers battles, dogfights, tanks, footage, and docudramas about the politics of the war.
In My Friend the Enemy we see instead a homeland America—a country that is at once beautiful and repulsive, quaint and disturbing, fearful and courageous. The book is not an attack on the U.S. during WWII, nor is it a dismissal of our past. It doesn’t rewrite history, and it isn’t one of those modern YA novels that sees all of history through the lens of one pet issue. Ms. Cheaney seems to have captured the flavor of the era without condemning it.