Houston Matters

What It Meant To Be An American In ‘The Last Year Of The War’

Writer Susan Meissner discusses her novel about a German family sent to an internment camp in South Texas during World War II.

The Last Year of the War - Banner
The Last Year of the War is an historical fiction novel about a young woman of German descent whose family is sent to an internment camp in South Texas during World War II.

Last Year of the War - Book

Elise Sontag is a 14-year-old girl who was born in America. But her father was born in Germany, and there’s fear he could be a Nazi sympathizer.

And so, during World War II, she and her family are forced to live in an internment camp in Crystal City, a town in South Texas.

While Elise’s story, told in the book The Last Year of the War, is a work of historical fiction, the practice of using internment camps in the United States was very real.

And so was this particular camp in Crystal City, which housed more than 4,000 ethnic Japanese, Italians, and Germans from 1942-1945.

Victory Huts at Crystal City
So-called Victory Huts used to house people of German, Italian, and Japanese descent in Crystal City, Texas during World War II.
German Internees at Crystal City Camp
German students interned at a camp in Crystal City, Texas during World War II.

In the audio above, writer Susan Meissner tells Houston Matters producer Michael Hagerty about Elise’s story, what she learned about life in the Texas camp, and the timely questions the novel presents about what it means to be an American.

Meissner will be in Houston for an event at Blue Willow Bookshop on Wednesday, March 20, at 7 p.m.

Author Susan Meissner
Susan Meissner is the author of numerous novels, including The Last Year of the War, a piece of historical fiction about a young woman of German descent whose family is placed in an internment camp in South Texas during World War II.

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Michael Hagerty

Senior Producer, Houston Matters

Michael Hagerty is the senior producer for Houston Matters. He's spent more than 20 years in public radio and television and dabbled in minor league baseball, spending four seasons as the public address announcer for the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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