Sylvia and Aki [2012 Co-Winner]

Written by Winifred Conkling

Book Synopsis:

The book Sylvia and Aki recounts the true story of Sylvia Mendez and Aki Munemitsu. Told in alternating chapters from the girls’ points of view, the story about institutional racism enlightens readers to events in recent history of the US. Aki’s family was relocated from their family farm to a Japanese internment camp in the Arizona desert. Meanwhile, Sylvia’s family has rented the Munemitsu farm and Sylvia and her brothers are not allowed to enroll in the nearby school. Instead, they are sent to the “Mexican school.” This sets the stage for Sylvia’s father to challenge in court the separation of races in California’s schools. The case, Mendez vs. Westminster School District is considered one of the precursors to Brown vs. Board of Education and helped build the case that would end school segregation nationally.

Quote from Rivera national committee

“ ‘Sylvia and Aki’ is a compelling story of two important historical narratives that brings to light the Mexican American struggle for equal education at a time when Japanese American families were being rounded up and sent to internment camps during World War II” says Oralia Garza de Cortes, a member of the national committee that selected the title, library and literacy advocate, and past president of REFORMA (The National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking).

Winifred Conkling is an author who has published numerous works of nonfiction. She holds a degree in journalism and has worked as a writer and editor at various newspapers and magazines. She also earned a Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. The book Sylvia and Aki is her first children’s book. For more information visit her website at


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