RIVER FALLS — Callie Trautmiller expected more from her social studies textbook in middle school.
Only one line mentioned the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Trautmiller was unable to round up more information about the event even after asking about it as a student.
Now the River Falls woman is a hot list Amazon author of a young adult novel detailing the history behind World War II’s Japanese-Americans in the 100th Infantry Battalion.
The story follows a Japanese-American girl and her brother, who goes on to fight in the decorated battalion for the United States despite the extreme racism they suffered.
“My sole purpose was to educate. A lot of people in the Midwest don’t realize that the 100th Battalion, which was comprised of almost entirely Japanese-Americans, secretly trained in Fort McCoy, Wisconsin to avoid being interned,” Trautmiller said.
Her full-length novel “Becoming American: A World War II Novel” is a brainchild of nearly five years of research, fictional character creation, and dozens of manuscript edits and rewrites completed at night when Trautmiller couldn’t sleep in her River Falls home.
“I do not sleep well. So I keep a notebook beside my bed and that’s when a lot of my ideas come to me. Sometimes I’ll just get up for a couple hours and I’ll just hash out an idea or plot line or a chapter,” Trautmiller said.
She dedicated time to reading 14 books about the historical event before writing her own story. Trautmiller meticulously worked to line up dates and locations for a historically accurate plot line. She even traveled to Honolulu, Hawaii to hear from the descendants of those who experienced the war first-hand.
“After meeting with them, I realized I was missing a huge piece of the story from World War II so I came back here and wrote in an entirely new story line and character about a month before the manuscript was due to honor their story. And actually that piece has become everyone’s favorite part of the book from all the feedback I get … Meeting these people involved made me want to honor their story in a way that they would approve of,” Trautmiller said.
Both of Trautmiller’s grandfathers also fought in World War II, serving as more inspiration and fuel for her storytelling fire.
The publication quickly rose to the No. 1 spot as a new release on Amazon’s list of teen and young adult military and historical fiction.
Trautmiller said her Green Bay-based publisher, Brittiany Koren from Written Dreams Publishing, asked her to track the novel online in order to catch a chance for publicizing its success. Trautmiller said she wasn’t going to bother checking, but her husband found it listed on Amazon’s top rank.
“We did a happy dance and a lot of screaming,” Trautmiller said.
Trautmiller describes her novel as an “underdog book” for its down-home birth and publication at an independent publisher.
“It’s gratifying to see it on the number one list for the fact that it’s an underdog book,” Trautmiller said.
In the wake of the novel’s success, Trautmiller turns her appreciation to the literature-savvy community around her.
Trautmiller said she is grateful for the supportive network she found in a River Falls community education class, the Kinnickinnic Valley Writers Cooperative and local book stores in River Falls and Hudson.
“I want to remember who brought me to the dance. I want to give them credit and accolades for their support. There’s such a network of great writers in this community and they offer a really good support system .... Writing can be a really solitary act,” Trautmiller said.
From 2-3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 17, Trautmiller will appear at the River Falls Public Library for an author reading and discussion.
Her book is available for sale at Fox Den Books in River Falls, through Written Dreams online store at writtendreams.com/store, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.
More information about Callie Trautmiller may be found at callietrautmiller.com.