I think when I picked up this novel I was expecting to learn more about the concentration camps built on American soil during World War 2. Instead, I was pleasantly drawn into this study of familial relationships and racial identity.
The Stories We Choose Not To Tell follows Angela Campbell on her path to self-discovery through following the paths of the strong Japanese-American women who came before her.
Just as her family is burying her grandmother, or Obachan, Angela learns that she is expecting her first child – and she’s terrified. Her relationship with her mother, Judith, isn’t the best, and she’s afraid the pattern will continue with her own child. On top of this, her Aunt Pamela gifts her a collection of cassette tapes of a teenaged Pamela interviewing her mother, Aiko, Angela’s Obachan, about her time in the Amache internment camp. The story that unfolds pulls you in and immediately invests you in the relationships.
Angela dives into the box of tapes, as well as her mother’s old journals, and a bigger picture emerges. Making the connection between what happened to her grandmother, the way her parents were treated as a mixed-race couple, and current events, she is compelled to find a way to tell Aiko’s story. Along the way, as she strives to honor her ancestors, she loses sight of the family already surrounding her and loving her. I cried through the last several chapters of this novel.
Life is messy, relationships are complicated, and communication is everything. There are so many important facets to Kelly’s novel, I’m still thinking about it days later. I love Kelly’s writing style and adore her characters. I highly recommend this book!