Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Within These Lines" by Stephanie Morrill, Served with a Recipe for Grilled Eggplant with Orange-Miso Sauce

I am very excited to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill, a touching and absorbing young adult World War II novel. Accompanying my review is a recipe inspired by my reading, Grilled Eggplant with Orange-Miso Sauce

Publisher's Blurb:

From Stephanie Morrill, author of The Lost Girl of Astor Street, comes Within These Lines, the love story of a girl and boy torn apart by racism during World War II.
Evalina Cassano’s life in an Italian-American family living in San Francisco in 1941 is quiet and ordinary until she falls in love with Taichi Hamasaki, the son of Japanese immigrants. Despite the scandal it would cause and that inter-racial marriage is illegal in California, Evalina and Taichi vow they will find a way to be together. But anti-Japanese feelings erupt across the country after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Taichi and his family are forced to give up their farm and move to an internment camp.
Degrading treatment makes life at Manzanar Relocation Center difficult. Taichi’s only connection to the outside world is treasured letters from Evalina. Feeling that the only action she can take to help Taichi is to speak out against injustice, Evalina becomes increasingly vocal at school and at home. 

Meanwhile, inside Manzanar, fighting between different Japanese-American factions arises. Taichi begins to doubt he will ever leave the camp alive.
With tensions running high and their freedom on the line, Evalina and Taichi must hold true to their ideals and believe in their love to make a way back to each other against unbelievable odds.

Hardcover: 352 Pages
Publisher: Blink (March 5, 2019)

My Review: 

I think it took me all of 30 seconds to sign up for this tour when I saw the email about it. If you ever read my reviews, you know that World War II historical fiction is a passion of mine and the mention of the Manzanar Relocation Center made me think of Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston, one of my favorite young adult memoirs. Starting in junior high, I checked that book out regularly for years until I bought my own copy. Several years ago I was thinking of it again and bought myself another copy (mine long since gone) at the library bookstore. The sheer horror of the U.S. government interning Japanese Americans in internment camp with Executive Order 9066 is something that pains me and our recent political climate makes the mistakes from the past chillingly relevant today. Although Within These Lines is a novel, it is based on fact, and Taichi and the Hamasaki’s experiences in the internment camps are gripping and moving.

The heart of the story is the relationship between Evalina and Taichi, in a hidden relationship already when the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor on December 7. 1941. The book starts three months after the attack, when anger at the Japanese is erupting and the government begins the process of moving families of Japanese descent to the camps. Evalina, an Italian-American and Taichi, a Japanese-American would have faced challenges even before the war, with most states having miscegenation laws prohibiting marriage between different races, but after the attack the odds seem insurmountable. Although a romance, the book is really about the characters and their personal growth—particularly Evalina, as she begins to find her voice. It is poignant and had me tearing up a few times, but there is hope in the pages too.

Within These Lines is well researched and well written, with the mostly fictional characters seamlessly blending with actual people interned at Manzanar. Stephanie Morrill wrote so vividly that I felt like I could see Manzanar and feel the intense winds and grit of the constantly blowing sand. Northern California during the WWII era comes alive too, and I could feel the desperation of the characters and the anger and bigotry against them by so many, as well as the hearts of those who tried to help them. Although written primarily for young adults, it’s a novel equally appropriate for adults. My only complaint is that the ending felt a bit rushed and I wanted to know more about the characters—main and supporting and learn more details about their lives after the war. Morrill writes in the afterword about her research and her inspiration for the book and that gave me more books to explore on this important part of our history that should be remembered and never repeated.

Author Notes: Stephanie Morrill is the creator of and the author of several young adult novels, including the historical mystery, The Lost Girl of Astor Street. Despite loving cloche hats and drop-waist dresses, Stephanie would have been a terrible flapper because she can’t do the Charleston and looks awful with bobbed hair. She and her near-constant ponytail live in Kansas City with her husband and three kids. 

Connect with Stephanie on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Food Inspiration: 

The food in Within These Lines reflects the times, both in the San Francisco setting where Evalina’s Italian family owns a restaurant and the Hamasaki family grew produce, and in the Manzanar Relocation Center where the Hamasaki family is relocated to, and where Taichi works in the kitchen in his housing block. Mentions included jars of olives, strawberries, lettuce, asparagus, eggplant and blackberries, marinara sauce with veal and beef meatballs, onions and tomatoes, eggplant parmesan, tangerines, lemon bars and tea, mochi, chicken salad and egg salad sandwiches, gnocchi, linguine with clam sauce, Vienna sausages and bologna sandwiches with a side of rice and canned peaches, chicken with brown sauce , stew, deep-fried rice balls rolled in sugar, lemonade, lasagna, meat ball sandwiches, fresh mozzarella, carrot sticks, spinach, blueberries and strawberries, oatmeal, scrambled eggs, fennel, tomatoes and lemons, fish, cranberries, and rice pudding.

I thought about making mochi as the Hamasaki family eats it for breakfast on the day they are relocated to the camp. I also considered something with blackberries—Evalina’s favorites, or rice since it is a part of both Italian and Japanese cuisines or some type of Italian-Japanese fusion dish. Ultimately I decided that I needed to include the oranges that are mentioned several times in the book. Mrs. Ling, a vendor of Chinese descent who sells produce in the farmers market along side the Hamasakis, gives one to Evalina and tells her it is for luck. She says that oranges are the perfect fruit as they are the easiest to share, and Evalina and Taichi share them a few times throughout the book. When I was Googling orange recipes I found one for a Orange-Miso Sauce from Eating Well magazine. I liked the Japanese-leaning ingredients and that it was served over eggplant—used frequently in both Japanese and Italian recipes.

When I was at the grocery store, I saw some locally-grown eggplant, not as long as a Japanese eggplant and not as round as an Italian eggplant, and labeled “hapa” –which is literally translated in Hawaiian to “part” or “mix” and refers to a person of mixed ethnic heritage. That seemed like a perfect fit for a dish for Taichi and Evalina. 

Eating Well says, “Mild, nutty flaxseed oil, the richest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids, provides the perfect base for salty miso and sweet orange juice. This sauce is delightful over grilled eggplant, fish and chicken or used as a salad dressing.

Orange-Miso Sauce
Recipe by Jim Romanoff via
(Makes about 3/4 Cup)

1/2 cup sweet white miso
1 Tbsp orange zest
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup flaxseed oil or canola oil
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp mirin, (optional)

Combine miso, orange zest and juice, oil, ginger, rice vinegar and mirin (if using) in a small bowl and whisk until thoroughly blended.

Notes/Results: The sauce's orange & miso pairing is really good, especially with the addition of the rice wine and mirin and I liked the pairing with the eggplant. I am taking the leftover eggplant with some cooked shrimp to work for lunch as I think the sauce will pair well with seafood too. Rather than whisk my sauce, I did it the cheater's way and pulsed it in my blender. You must like orange and miso for this one, as the flavors come through predominately, but it worked for me and is an easy, almost pantry sauce as I usually have everything, including an orange or two, available. I will definitely make it again. 

I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

Note: A review copy of "Within These Lines" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.  
You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.



  1. I just recommended this book to my friend who teaches literature in high school because she does a classroom book club and I thought maybe it would be a good read. Thanks for being on this tour!

    Sara @ TLC Book Tours

  2. attitudes towards many minorities have changed. i think that’s interestingly reflected in your review of this book. Although I’ve seen a few exhibits on the Japanese interment in the 1940s, and I’ve met people whose parents were in the camps, I haven’t read much about it, though I think I should start with an adult version of this important history, which we need to work so we’ll never repeat it.

    The eggplant and sauce sounds delicious!

    best... mae at mae

  3. Yes, it pays to recall just how few years ago it was that there were internments of racial groups.... Nice review and lovely eggplant

  4. The whole Japanese interment business is so often glossed over in American history. It's important to remember. The eggplant and sauce really do sound delicious.

  5. Very nice review, Deb. We actually have a restaurant named Hapa here that is a Japanese fusion type place. I will have to ask the owner the originas of the title. Interesting.


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