Missing in Action
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A boy confronts prejudice and intolerance in this striking, “emotionally honest coming-of-age story” (Publishers Weekly) set on the American homefront during World War II, from the acclaimed author of Search and Destroy and Soldier Boys.
Dirty. Lazy. Good-for-nothing.
Jay Thacker is used to being called names because his dad is half Navajo. But he gets a chance at a new life and a new identity when he and his mom move to the small town of Delta, Utah, to live with Jay’s grandfather. In Delta, Jay can convince everyone, and maybe even himself, that his dad—who is missing in action as he fights in WWII—is really a POW and military hero, and not gone forever.
As the summer wears on and Jay finds himself growing up a little faster than he expected, he learns to look at some truths that had previously been impossible to face. Truths about his father; about Ken, his new friend from the Japanese internment camp nearby; and about himself, too.
In this understated and moving story, Dean Hughes offers a glimpse at the choices a boy must make as he decides what kind of man he’ll one day be.
reason, and that made her dimples sink in. He took one good look at her and then he was too embarrassed to look again. “Okay, kids,” Sister Jenson said. “I want you to take your partner, the one in front of you, by the hand.” Her voice really did screech. It sounded like a dry wagon wheel. “I want everyone to spread out so you have a little room.” The next thing he knew, Elaine was pulling him, walking backward, her hand gripping tight on his. She seemed to think she was in charge. He took
not going to live here.” He watched what was happening to her face, but he didn’t care. She shouldn’t have been flirting around with that Hal guy. She sat up straight, turned away from him. “We’re not leaving, Jay. I made that mistake once in my life, thinking I had to get away from this little town. What I got away from were the things I was raised with. I made a whole lot of mistakes that I regret now. You know how bad things were for us.” He knew what she was saying. “We were okay.” “No, we
had wet his bed. “Pee-pants,” his dad had called him, and “baby,” and “worthless,” always worthless. Grandpa stepped into the room. Jay felt him there before he heard him. He opened his eyes. “Jay, your mom’s down in her room crying her eyes out. She wants you to know how sorry she is for the things she said to you.” “It doesn’t matter.” Grandpa was wearing a white shirt and red suspenders. He had pulled the suspenders off his shoulders, and they were hanging over his hips. Jay looked at his
the army?” “I don’t know exactly. I’ll sign up on my birthday, and then I have to go up to Salt Lake to be processed. It’ll be a month or so before I leave.” Grandma was back with the grape juice. She said, “Is one of you boys strong enough to open this bottle?” Ken stood up and reached for the bottle, and he twisted the lid off, easy. But Jay was still thinking that Ken would be gone soon, and maybe he was going to try too hard to be a hero. “Are you going to work on the farm until you go?”
the fall. He was doing okay. Some of the guys hadn’t liked having a Japanese-American soldier at basic training, he said. “But I’m showing them what I can do, and they don’t worry about it as much as they did at first.” Things were okay for Jay, too. He still hoped he could make it to the major leagues, but there were other things he could do if that didn’t work out. Grandpa even said he could take over the drugstore someday, and he was working there a little already. Mom was doing better too,