The Diplomat’s Daughter – Reader’s Guide

The Diplomat's Daughter“For fans of All the Light We Cannot See and Orphan Train, the author of the “thought-provoking” (Library Journal, starred review) and “must-read” (PopSugar) novel The Gilded Years crafts a captivating tale of three young people divided by the horrors of World War II and their journey back to one another.

“During the turbulent months following the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor, twenty-one-year-old Emi Kato, the daughter of a Japanese diplomat, is locked behind barbed wire in a Texas internment camp. She feels hopeless until she meets handsome young Christian Lange, whose German-born parents were wrongfully arrested for un-American activities. Together, they live as prisoners with thousands of other German and Japanese families, but discover that love can bloom in even the bleakest circumstances.

“When Emi and her mother are abruptly sent back to Japan, Christian enlists in the United States Army, with his sights set on the Pacific front—and, he hopes, a reunion with Emi—unaware that her first love, Leo Hartmann, the son of wealthy of Austrian parents and now a Jewish refugee in Shanghai, may still have her heart.

“Fearful of bombings in Tokyo, Emi’s parents send her to a remote resort town in the mountains, where many in the foreign community have fled. Cut off from her family, struggling with growing depression and hunger, Emi repeatedly risks her life to help keep her community safe—all while wondering if the two men she loves are still alive.

“As Christian Lange struggles to adapt to life as a soldier, his unit pushes its way from the South Pacific to Okinawa, where one of the bloodiest battles of World War II awaits them. Meanwhile, in Japanese-occupied Shanghai, as Leo fights to survive the squalor of the Jewish ghetto, a surprise confrontation with a Nazi officer threatens his life. For each man, Emi Kato is never far from their minds.

“Flung together by war, passion, and extraordinary acts of selflessness, the paths of these three remarkable young people will collide as the fighting on the Pacific front crescendos. With her “elegant and extremely gratifying” (USA TODAY) storytelling, Karin Tanabe paints a stunning portrait of a turning point in history” (Amazon summary).



  • What is the difference in traveling for curiosity and traveling for career?
  • How does war change one’s reality and perception?
  • How is individual security challenged and jeopardized during war?

Chapter 1:

  • How was their reality fractured?
  • Why does depression make one sound guilty?
  • Why did Helene Lange continue to explain who they were?
  • What impact do stereotypes and nicknames have on people?
  • What purpose or reasoning was there to framing the Franz family?

Chapter 2:

  • Why would Emi consider America untamed?
  • How is a transient lifestyle difficult on relationships?
  • How are memories warm and comfortable?

Chapter 3:

  • Do they rich or the poor tend to have more children? Why?
  • How did stereotypes follow Christian to the group home?
  • What privileges were brought to Christian because he was from River Hills?
  • Why were families separated?

Chapter 4:

    • What would it be like to not know where your family was for seven weeks?
    • How did the children’s home change Christian?
    • Why would Inge want to be Christian’s sister?
    • How does service distract us from our cares in life?

Chapter 5:

  • Can war produce an optimist? Why or why not?
  • How could someone like the internment camp?
  • Why would correspondence be cut off?
  • What is endurance?
  • How could Emi change her circumstances?

Chapter 6:

  • Why wouldn’t the people approach the fence?
  • How did hope survive in the internment camp?
  • What value is there to staring at one’s feed?
  • How did authorities plant doubt in Christian’s mind?

Chapter 7:

  • How does the new life inside Helene contrast to their dismal surroundings?
  • Speculate how Helene got hit. Intentional or accident?
  • How could one pretend to live a different life inside the internment?

Chapter 8:

  • Would a social life help in internment? Why or why not?
  • How do others see you?
  • How can you make the best of a bad situation?

Chapter 9:

  • In the same situation, would you repatriate?

Chapter 10:

  • Would there be any dangers for Christian and Emi to socialize?
  • What dangers existed for Kurt being a Jewish German? Would he have to repatriate?
  • What kind of safety and comfort could the orchard provide?
  • Would Emi’s prominence permit her extra privileges?

Chapter 11:

  • How does the summer smell differently than the winter?
  • How does young love traverse any obstacles?

Chapter 12:

  • Can happiness be found in every situation?
  • How does Emi make the war a reality to Christian?
  • What will life look like for Christian without Emi?

Chapter 13:

  • What similarities and differences are there between the Germans and the Japanese in the internment camp?

Chapter 14:

  • How could Emi’s situation get worse?
  • How could gratitude aid the POWs?
  • How does war limit Emi’s possibilities compared to her culture?

Chapter 15:

  • How does the author engage the reader by traveling back in time?
  • What value is there in knowing the history and politics of a country before visiting?
  • Why is music an attractor?

Chapter 16:

  • How will the Hartmann’s future change knowing they’re Jewish and in Austria?
  • How can transient people ‘keep’ people?
  • What can an individual endure?

Chapter 17:

  • How does youth not understand the turmoil of war?
  • What similarities are there between Leo and Christian?
  • How could Emi make her encounter in the street disappear?

Chapter 18:

  • What can outweigh hate?
  • What other options would the Hartmann’s have to leave Austria?

Chapter 19:

  • How would life be different for the Hartmann’s in China?
  • What difficulty lies in leaving a home country for the older generation?

Chapter 20:

  • What would it be like to live in a community lacking diversity?
  • Why would Brazil trade off their Japanese?
  • What did freedom look like in India?

Chapter 21:

  • How had Japan changed?
  • How does money lose its value in such situations?
  • How does the past smell?
  • What is the result of blind patriotism

Chapter 22:

  • Why would the Chinese herd the Jewish people?
  • How did the war change the Chinese culture?
  • How did reality change for the Hartmann’s?

Chapter 23:

    • How did Emi’s journey on the train compare to Christian’s?
    • How would Emi’s knowledge of the world be dangerous?
    • Why is diversity comforting to Emi?
    • What would you have done in Emi’s position when the Moris didn’t pick her up?

Chapter 24:

  • How were Japan and Germany similar?
  • Why would German soldiers spend the war in Japan?
  • What did the SS officials do to obtain their high status?
  • Was there any value to Leo’s sacrifice?

Chapter 25:

  • How were the feelings for America and Germany different for Christian and his parents?
  • How would having Jack with him feel like home?

Chapter 26:

  • Was it a good idea for Emi to protect her parents? Why or why not?
  • What sacrifices would you make for food?
  • How could playing the piano for the Germans change much for Emi?

Chapter 27:

  • How would you handle the physical ailments if you were Leo?
  • Why would Hani want to keep Agatha away from Leo?
  • What does innocence look like? Especially during war?

Chapter 28:

  • Why did Christian feel everything was wrong?
  • What does it take to kill another person?

Chapter 29:

  • How did Jiro and Emi’s experience in America compare to each other?
  • Why would Jiro keep the truth from his wife about the war?
  • Are there dangers with indoctrination? Why or why not?

Chapter 30:

  • Why does Christian ache for simplicity? What does simplicity mean to Christian?
  • Why would Christian free the Japanese prisoner?

Chapter 31:

  • How similar and different are the German soldiers to the American soldiers in Christian’s unit?
  • What different challenges existed in getting a chicken versus a pig?
  • Why would the Germans trade Ernst for his father?
  • Why would Oscar be sent home to die?

Chapter 32:

  • How could Christian find out about his family?
  • What does being like an orphan feel like?

Chapter 33:

    • What did normal look like before the war? During the war? After the war?
    • How did music again change things for Emi?

Chapter 34:

  • How are resources different for Leo compared to Emi?

Chapter 35:

  • What would post-war look like in Karuizawa?

Chapter 36:

  • How do things look different in peace and freedom?
  • How does peace time change personal responsibility and freedom?
  • Why would the Japanese man in the internment camp mistranslate the letter for Christian?


By Tracy Atkinson

Tracy Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the Midwest with her husband and spirited long-haired miniature dachshunds. She is a teacher, having taught elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education and a master’s in higher education. Her passion is researching, studying and investigating the attributes related to self-directed learners. She has published several titles, including MBTI Learning Styles: A Practical Approach, The Art of Learning Journals, Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Lemosa: The Annals of the Hidden, Book Two, Rachel’s 8 and Securing Your Tent. She is currently working on a non-fiction text exploring the attributes of self-directed learners: The Five Characteristics of Self-directed Learners.


Tracy Harrington-Atkinson

Tracy Harrington-Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the mid-west with her husband. She loved storytelling and sharing her stories with her children. As they grew, she started writing her stories down for them. She is a teacher, having taught from elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education, masters in higher education and continued on to a PhD in curriculum design. Her husband, Kerry and Tracy breed miniature dachshunds and love to spend time with their growing family. She has published several books including Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Rachel's 8 and Securing Your Tent.

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