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14 July 2019 INTERNMENT by Samira Ahmed, Little Brown, March 2019, 400p., ISBN: 978-0-316-52269-4


“My mom hugs me. Tight. ‘I’m so sorry sweetheart. We had no idea it would come to this.’”


“Trump is an Islamophobic bigot. As president, his words matter. He is using them to spread hatred. And deranged, unwell or evil people have allegedly been inspired by those words to target the very people that Trump targets in his speeches and his tweets. The charged suspect in New Zealand cited Trump ‘as a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose’...

Trump’s anti-Muslim bigotry has a long history. In 2011 and 2012, Trump insinuated that President Barack Obama was secretly Muslim. In September 2015, at a campaign rally, Trump nodded along as a supporter claimed ‘we have a problem in this country; it’s called Muslims.’ Trump continued nodding, saying ‘right,’ and ‘we need this question!’ as the supporter then proceeded to ask Trump ‘when can we get rid of them?’ In response, Trump said: ‘We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things.’

In November 2015, on ‘Morning Joe,’ Trump said that America needs to ‘watch and study the mosques.’ Four days later, he indicated that he would ‘certainly implement’ a database to track Muslims in the United States. Two days after that, he falsely claimed that ‘thousands and thousands’ of Muslims cheered in New Jersey when the World Trade Center collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001.

Then came the most egregious statement — one that should haunt Trump’s legacy forever and taint everyone who supported him subsequently: On Dec. 7, 2015, he called to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. Three days later, Trump tweeted that the United Kingdom is ‘trying hard to disguise their massive Muslim problem.’ On March 9, 2016, Trump falsely claimed that ‘Islam hates us.’”

-- from “A Short History of President Trump’s anti-Muslim bigotry” Washington Post, 3/15/19


“Independence, California. The town where we disembark for internment is called Independence. I balk at the irony of the name. And at how sunny the day is. There should be dark clouds and storms. Permanent night. But the earth, the sun, and the moon keep on their course, utterly oblivious.

A loud voice barks from the PA: ‘Stay with your families. You will board for Camp Mobius by identification number. Show the underside of your left wrist as you exit the station. Stay calm and exit in an orderly fashion’

Camp Mobius? I guess that’s what they’re calling it. They give it a name, like it’s a summer sleepaway camp, and not a prison.

‘We’re in the first group. Let’s get in line.’ My dad walks numbly forward.

‘How can you be so calm about this?’ I hiss at my parents. I know it’s not their fault, but I’m tired, and nothing makes sense, and I desperately want an explanation for something, for anything.

My mom takes my elbow. ‘Layla, enough.’ My mom’s voice is low but not soft. ‘We’re not calm like we’re meditating. We’re keeping our cool so we don’t get shot. Understand?’

‘They’re not going to shoot us. We’re American citizens. They can’t.’

‘Our government is jailing us because of our faith,’ a voice from behind me says. I spin around to face a girl who looks about my age. ‘They can do whatever they want. They already are. It’s a brave new world.’

‘We haven’t gotten to that book on the syllabus yet,’ I say. ‘What happens?’

‘Spoilers.’ The girl grins. I like her already.

‘I appreciate your commitment to protect the secrets of nearly century-old literature.’

‘I pride myself on my anti-spoiler crusade.’”


INTERNMENT is a young adult thriller that follows the plight of a Muslim American teenager and her parents after the United States government decides to forcably incarcerate all Muslims in the US--including all Muslim-American citizens--in internment camps. While Donald Trump is never identified by name in the book, his publicly-expressed sentiments make repeated appearances in the story.


A month after the President declares that Musiims are a threat to America, the Exclusion Authority comes for high school senior Layla Amin, her poet father, and her chiropractor mother. They are given ten minutes to each pack a bag before they are taken away for processing. This includes their getting a “processing” number imprinted on the inside of their left wrists. They are jailed in Camp Mobius, located in the California desert, not far from Manzanar where many Japanese American citizens were similarly imprisoned during the Second World War. 


America interned Japanese Americans a mere decade before I was born. Given the deep roots of white supremacy and anti-immigrant sentiments in the US, we can’t assume that history won’t repeat itself. If you know American history, the premise of INTERNMENT is all too easy to swallow.


We see how internees who make waves disappear from Camp Mobilus, never to be seen again. But Layla repeatedly takes life-threatening chances as she probes potential strategies for escaping the armed and electrically-fenced facility. She takes advantage of the friendship of Corporal Jake Reynolds, a mysteriously empathic guard, and is able to contact her Jewish high school boyfriend David on the outside. David’s father works for the State Department, but is apparently unwilling to help. 


Layla also has a new friend to confide in on the inside--Ayesha, the girl with whom she bantered about spoilers during their intake processing.


These teens are well-read students, familiar with the history of the WWII-era White Rose resistance group. Despite the untimely end that the White Rose teens experienced, Layla decides that emulating them is her best bet for effecting change from the inside. Thus begins a high-stakes cat-and-mouse game between Layla and the camp authority.


Like me, you’ll hold your breath, wondering how this will all end. 


I sure hope that, in the real world, Americans of good conscience can unite in opposition to fascism and will help steer the ship of state in a different direction than what is portrayed here. Let’s hope that the future will not reveal this book to have been prophetic.




Richie Partington, MLIS

Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.com





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