This historical novel for middle school readers is based on the true stories of Sylvia Mendez and Aki Munemitsu Nakauchi, who were 3rd graders during World War II. When Aki’s family is forced to leave their home in Westminster, Calif., for a Japanese American internment camp in Arizona, the Mendez family moves into their home. Sylvia Mendez looks forward to her first day of school, only to be told she and her siblings cannot enroll, although her lighter skinned cousins can. This leads to the groundbreaking Mendez v Westminster desegregation lawsuit that preceded Brown v Board of Education. Meanwhile, Aki worries every day about her father, who is interned separately for most of the war. The chapters alternate between the experiences of Sylvia and Aki, introducing readers to the daily injustices of internment and school segregation.
— Rethinking Schools
Young Sylvia Mendez never expected to be at the center of a landmark legal battle. Young Aki Munemitsu never expected to be sent away from her home and her life as she knew it. The two girls definitely never expected to know each other, until their lives intersected on a Southern California farm in a way that changed the country forever. Who are Sylvia and Aki? And why did their family stories matter then and still matter today? This book reveals the remarkable, never-before-told story based on true events of Mendez vs. Westminster School District, the California court case that desegregated schools for Latino children and set the stage for Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education at the national level.
About the Author
WINIFRED CONKLING studied journalism at Northwestern University and spent the next 25 years writing nonfiction for adult readers, including articles for "Consumer Reports" magazine and more than 30 nonfiction books. As part of her transition to writing for young people, she is working toward her Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. "Sylvia & Aki" is her first work for children.