Clark and Division, By Naomi Hirahara, 305 pgs.

Jul 20, 2021

Did you know that the American government began releasing Japanese-American prisoners from the Manzanar concentration camp in California’s Owens Valley before the end of World War II? Or that many of them resettled in Chicago? It’s on that resettlement that Naomi Hirahara has based her novel Clark and Division—the title comes from the Chicago intersection around which the released prisoners established their new community.

Aki Ito is the twenty-year-old woman who narrates the novel. Her sister Rose had been in Chicago for a few months before Aki and their parents traveled there. But just before their arrival, Rose was hit by a subway train and killed. The authorities say suicide. Aki says murder and intends to prove it.

Clark and Division is a mystery novel, and mystery-novel foundations don’t get more familiar than She never would have killed herself! But Hirahara constructs the novel so you’re never sure whether twenty-year-old Aki is right or wrong until the satisfying end. Is it a solve-able mystery, as opposed to one where you watch the detective solve it? I don’t think so, but I got hung up on a deftly dangled red herring, so don’t go by me.

The novel is also a feminist novel, a historical feminist mystery novel with a solid sense of place. And with no seams showing: the storytelling comes first, no teaching or preaching. Readers who are always on the lookout for fiction that both young adults and less-young adults can enjoy would enjoy Clark and Division, too. –Jim Woster (Soho Crime,

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