Josh Tuininga in conversation with Dr. Devin E. Naar and Tom Ikeda — 'We Are Not Strangers'

Inspired by a true story, this graphic novel follows a Jewish immigrant’s efforts to help his Japanese neighbors while they are incarcerated during World War II.


Third Place Books welcomes author and illustrator Josh Tuininga to our Lake Forest Park store! Tuininga will be discussing his new graphic novel, We Are Not Strangers, an evocative and beautifully illustrated work of historical fiction. Set in the multicultural Central District of Seattle during World War II and inspired by author Josh Tuininga’s family experiences, We Are Not Strangers converges two perspectives into a single portrait of a community’s struggle with race, responsibility, and what it truly means to be an American. Tuininga will be joined in conversation by Dr. Devin E. Naar and Tom Ikeda. This event is free and open to the public.

Update 8/24/23: Previously scheduled at our Ravenna location, this event has been moved to our Lake Forest Park store to accommodate more guests. Please note that both the date and venue have changed. We're excited to see such a response from our community!

For important updates, registration is highly recommended in advance. This event will include a public signing and time for audience Q&A. Sustain our author series by purchasing a copy of the featured book!

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About We Are Not Strangers. . .

Marco Calvo always knew his grandfather, affectionately called Papoo, was a good man. After all, he was named for him. A first-generation Jewish immigrant, Papoo was hardworking, smart, and caring. When Papoo peacefully passes away, Marco expected the funeral to be simple. However, he is caught off guard by something unusual. Among his close family and friends are mourners he doesn’t recognize—Japanese- American families—and no one is quite sure who they are or why they are at the service. How did these strangers know his grandfather so well?

Set in the multicultural Central District of Seattle during World War II and inspired by author Josh Tuininga’s family experiences, We Are Not Strangers explores a unique situation of Japanese and Jewish Americans living side by side in a country at war. Following Marco’s grandfather’s perspective, we learn of his life as a Sephardic Jewish immigrant and his struggles as he settles into an America gearing up its war efforts. Despite the conflict raging just outside US borders, Papoo befriends Sam Akiyama, a Japanese man who finds his world upended from President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066. Determined to keep Sam’s business afloat while he and his family are unjustly imprisoned, Sam and Papoo create a plan that will change the Akiyama’s lives forever.


Praise for We Are Not Strangers. . .

“In every time of crisis and conflict there are unsung heroes who demonstrate compassion, kindness, graciousness, and nobility. More often than not, their stories never get told. A thoroughly wonderful book.”
Jamie Ford, author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

“A powerful book about the power of advocating for friends and neighbors during times of great division. An important addition to literature about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.”
—Kazu Kibuishi, author of the Amulet series

“This book beautifully uncovers a deep emotional connection between our communities that is known by few and I promise, will leave you changed forever.”
—Tom Ikeda, Founding Director of Densho

We Are Not Strangers tells a different kind of love story, a different kind of hero story, a different story about race and immigration and community, which surely is what the world needs now. Josh Tuininga has made magic here.”
—Laurie Frankel, author of This Is How It Always Is and One Two Three

“We Are Not Strangers inspires readers to treat fellow human beings with fairness and dignity. Tuininga wonderfully succeeds in showing and telling a real story with real people in a real time.”
—Sharon Hashimoto, author of More American

Josh Tuininga is an author, artist, and designer living in North Bend, Washington. After studying fine art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, he founded an art and design agency, where he continues to work as its creative director. His work has been published in Communication Arts magazine and HOW design magazine, and he was awarded with the Communication Arts Award for excellence in illustration. Tuininga is the author of two children’s books: Why Blue? (Xist Publishing, 2014) and Dream On (Indiegogo campaign, 2019). We Are Not Strangers, which has been awarded a 4Culture Heritage Grant, is his first graphic novel.

Dr. Devin E. Naar is the Isaac Alhadeff Professor in Sephardic Studies, Associate Professor of History, and faculty at the Stroum Center for Jewish Studies in the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington. Born and raised in New Jersey, Dr. Naar graduated summa cum laude from Washington University in St. Louis and received his Ph.D. in History at Stanford University. He has also served as a Fulbright fellow to Greece. His first book, Jewish Salonica: Between the Ottoman Empire and Modern Greece, was published by Stanford University Press in 2016. The book won the 2016 National Jewish Book Award in the category of Research Based on Archival Material and was named a finalist in Sephardic Culture. It also won the 2017 Edmund Keeley Prize for best book in Modern Greek Studies awarded by the Modern Greek Studies Association. 

Tom Ikeda, founder of Densho, established the non-profit in 1996 to preserve and share WWII Japanese American incarceration history, promoting justice and equity. Tom conducted over 250 video oral history interviews, created anti-racism curriculum, and spoke against Muslim travel bans, family separation, detention, and anti-Asian hate. Previously, Tom was a General Manager at Microsoft's Multimedia Publishing Group. He has received numerous awards for his historical and community contributions, including the Humanities Washington Award, National JACL Japanese American of the Biennium Award, Microsoft Alumni Integral Fellows Award, Japanese American National Museum Founder's Award, and Washington State Historical Society's Robert Gray Medal.

Want a signed edition of the featured book, but can't make it to the event? Order through our website or over the phone, and write your request for a signature or personalization in the comments field at checkout. Please call the hosting store if you're placing your order within 24 hours of the event.

Third Place Books Events Code of Conduct: Third Place Books is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of event attendees and guest authors, during both online and in-store events. By registering for this event, you are agreeing to refrain from engaging in inappropriate behavior and harassment of any kind throughout the course of this event (i.e. racial slurs, profanity, hate speech, spam comments, etc.). Please note that any participants who engage in inappropriate behavior or harassment of any kind will be immediately ejected from the event.

For media inquiries, access inquiries, or questions about our Covid-19 policies, please email or call our Lake Forest Park store at (206) 366-3311.