I recently completed the copy edits for my newest middle grade novel, A DIAMOND IN THE DESERT, which is due out February, 2012, from Viking. It's an historical fiction story about a baseball team who overcomes all odds and beats the state champions while interned at Gila River, a Japanese internment camp.
To write this book, I spent two years interviewing the pitcher of the team, who is the main character in my book. I also read three and half years of newspaper articles, all on microfiche, at the Pacific Archives building in Laguna Niguel, California.
I then created a timeline, interweaving what was happening at Gila River, in baseball from 1942-1945, and the war. I taped this timeline to the wall in my office, along with a map of Gila River, and photos of the team. Each day, as I sat down to write, I studied the photos and the map. I looked at the timeline, doing my best to be there, and to understand what it must have been like.
To this day, I can only imagine how it must have felt to have been set aside on an Indian reservation in the middle of the desert in one's own country. Still, I am grateful to the gentlemen who allowed me to interview them. I am very happy to have stumbled across this story five years ago, at a middle school history day competition, where I met the student who had recreated a model of the Zenimura baseball field.
"You built that?" I asked her. I was truly amazed.
"Yes," she told me, smiling.
"Do you think it would be possible for me to interview your grandfather?" I asked.
She nodded, then wrote down his number.
Never in a million years would I have thought there'd be such an amazing story behind that baseball field.