Color of the Sea (book)

Title Color of the Sea
Author John Hamamura
Original Publisher Thomas Dunne Books
Original Publication Date 2006
Pages 306
Awards Alex Award, 2007
WorldCat Link

A coming-of-age novel by first time novelist John Hamamura centering on a Kibei raised in Japan, Hawai'i, and California and that climaxes with his wartime experiences that include arrest, the Military Intelligence Service, and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The book won an Alex Award from the Young Adult Library Services Association in 2007.

The book centers on Isamu "Sam" Hamada, a Kibei mostly raised outside of Hiroshima and who returns to Hawai'i with his father at age nine in 1930. The narrative follows his life in Hawai'i, where he excels in school and becomes a martial arts expert; his journey to California to attend college, where he lives with an uncle and falls for Keiko Yanagi, a local Nisei girl; and the trauma of the war that encompasses American concentration camps, Sam teaching at the Military Intelligence Service Language School and embarking on a secret mission in Okinawa at the end of the war, and the atomic bombing and its aftermath. In the second half of the book, Keiko emerges as a co-lead character, and the story follows her and her family to Japan just prior to the war and their wartime incarceration in American concentration camps after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The book is divided into five sections that span the years from 1930 to 1947.

About two-thirds of the book takes place before the war and most of the wartime sections take place on battlefields or in Japan, with only a brief glimpse of forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans. Keiko and her family are sent to the Stockton Assembly Center and later to the Jerome, Arkansas, concentration camp. Sam's cousin, Dewey, and Kekio's brother, Al, both volunteer for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and serve in Europe. Keiko's father Shoji is arrested on Pearl Harbor day and eventually rejoins the family in Stockton and Jerome.

The book received generally positive reviews with reviewers praising the storytelling, characterizations and historical scope, but also noting "some melodramatic moments" and implausibilities in the plotting. Though not explicitly written for the young adult audience, the book was one of ten recipients of the Alex Award in 2007, awarded to books written for adults that have a special appeal to the the young adults (ages 12 to 18) audience.

Authored by Brian Niiya, Densho

For More Information

Author's official website that includes excerpts from the book:

Hamamura, John. Color of the Sea. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2006. 321 pages.


Haggas, Carol. Booklist, March 15, 2006, 27.

Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2006, 48.

Kumabe, Kerry, PopMatters, Oct. 11, 2006.

Publisher's Weekly, Dec. 12, 2005, 36–37.

Quan, Shirley N. "Color of the Sea." Library Journal 131, no. 1: 97. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost.