Heart of a Samurai is based on the remarkable life of Manjuri aka John Mung. We meet Manjuri when he's a young boy on a fishing boat that ends up shipwrecked, we watch as he connects with Captain Whitfield and moves to America, lives in America and eventually travels back home to Japan. Through his extensive traveling on whaling ships he meets many people, sees many things, and experiences fear, excitement, adventure, anger, injustice, prejudice, validation, camaraderie and other events in his life. Heart of a Samurai takes place in the mid 19th century, before Japan opened it's borders to the West. It's actually with the help of Manjuri that helps to bring about this change.
Not only is this book about adventure and changing the world around you, it's also about identity and self discovery. Throughout Manjuri's travels he often thinks of home (whether it be in Japan or in America or on the sea) and he often thinks of his destiny and where he truly belongs. In the beginning we see that his dream is to become a samurai, but because he was born into a family of fisherman that's all he can ever be... until coming to America. This is where he realized that even as the only Japanese person in his town he can do whatever he sets his mind too. He no longer just sees himself as a lowly fisherman's son, but instead he sees himself with possibilities and opportunities to become who ever he wants to be.
I think this is an uplifting story and one that resonates with anyone who feels like an outsider in their community (whether it's because of race, religion, sex, income, etc.). Manjuri shows you with determination and knowing who you are and not being afraid of finding out who you are, you can achieve anything.
Check out a copy of this book at your local library!