Published February 17, 2022

On February 15 as part of the 2022 Virginia Festival of the Book, Traci Chee (We Are Not Free) discussed her novel for young readers in a presentation for school groups across Virginia. In conversation with Dustin Lee and Erin Siwert, educators at Virginia Run Elementary School in Fairfax County Public Schools.

To request access to the video from this event in order to share it with students, please email

Educator Resources

About the Book

“A compelling and transformative story of a tragic period in American history… Each voice is powerful, evoking raw emotions of fear, anger, resentment, uncertainty, grief, pride, and love… An unforgettable must-read.​”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review  

“Chee is a master storyteller… Here, she uses her own San Francisco–based Japanese American family’s history to inform a blazing and timely indictment of the incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII. Her passion and personal involvement combine with her storytelling talents to create a remarkable and deeply moving account of the incarceration… [We Are Not Free] should become required curriculum reading on a shameful and relevant chapter in U.S. history.” —Booklist, starred review

“The novel may be fiction, but it will be hard for readers not to fall deep into the harsh realities these teens face. The writing is engaging and emotionally charged, allowing the readers to connect with each character… Chee’s words are a lot to take in, but necessary and beautiful all the same.”—School Library Journal, starred review 

From New York Times best-selling and acclaimed author Traci Chee comes We Are Not Free, the collective account of a tight-knit group of young Nisei, second-generation Japanese American citizens, whose lives are irrevocably changed by the mass U.S. incarcerations of World War II.

Fourteen teens who have grown up together in Japantown, San Francisco. Fourteen teens who form a community and a family, as interconnected as they are conflicted. Fourteen teens whose lives are turned upside down when over 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry are removed from their homes and forced into desolate incarceration camps. In a world that seems determined to hate them, these young Nisei must rally together as racism and injustice threaten to pull them apart.


Dominion Energy

Virginia Festival of the Book staff, volunteers, partners, and attendees appreciate all of our sponsors. It is their crucial support, along with individual donors, that allows us to present the 2022 Virginia Festival of the Book almost completely free of charge. We appreciate the generous commitment from our Premier Sponsor, The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation, and these major sponsors: Michelle and David Baldacci, Dominion Energy, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Community partner

This event is presented in partnership with Jefferson-Madison Regional Library as the 2022 JMRL Same Page Community Read selection.

About Same Page Community Read

Each year, the Virginia Festival of the Book partners with JMRL to present public programming celebrating the annual Same Page Community Read author, selected by committee. JMRL invites everyone to read the selected book, and offers a limited number of free copies to the public through its eight branch locations and Bookmobile. As part of the Same Page community-wide reading series, the Festival features appearances by Traci Chee discussing the selected title and her new release. Additional programming will be presented by JMRL throughout March. The Same Page Community Read is supported by the Art and Jane Hess Fund of the Friends of the Library Endowment.

Partners & Sponsors  |  View All

With generous support from Michelle and David Baldacci

Cornell NEH Virginia Public Media - NPR & PBS Charlottesville Albemarle UVA CHO