In a recent interview, Chase, the book’s author, emphasized Asawa’s innate ability to create something beautiful out of any situation. “What inspired me the most was her ability to turn swords into plowshares,” Chase said. “Every time life dealt her a blow, she turned it into something wonderful, something creative.”
In the spring of 1942, the Asawa family had their world turned completely upside down. In response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the emerging World War II, President Roosevelt ordered more than 100,000 Japanese-American citizens into internment camps. Separated for years from their father, the Asawa children and their mother were forced to adapt to the unimaginable conditions of living in a prison camp. In the midst of this violent situation, however, Asawa’s artistic tenacity flourished. It was during this time that she met three internees that worked as animators at Walt Disney prior to being pushed into internment. These professional artists taught classes to students in the camp and helped Asawa hone her own drawing skills.