Farewell to Manzanar, a memoir by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston, is a compelling and insightful look into the past. In 1941, approximately 120,000 Japanese Americans were evacuated into ten internment camps. The author, one of the people placed in the camps, tells of the times of hardship and discrimination during World War II. Grappling with issues ranging from loyalty between countries to food and housing to family separation, this book will give you a look into how a large family facing hard times perseveres through it and gets back to where they once were before they were knocked down.
When people think of World War II, most think of the Holocaust and the discrimination and oppression of Jews. They think of how Germany’s cruel leader tortured innocent people. But most people won’t think of the hatred Americans felt towards the Japanese after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. And not only the hatred they felt towards Japanese people living in Japan, but hatred towards Japanese Americans, too. Because of the bombing, the United States government considered every Japanese resident of the United States suspicious. The government moved their very own Japanese citizens, people contributing to their country, into camps out of fear that these Japanese Americans were working with Japan. The amount of discrimination the Japanese Americans faced before and after evacuating was astronomical. Most people never think about this. But after reading Houston’s book, everyone will see, buried in history, the injustice that Japanese Americans faced throughout this era.
This book made me see the harsh reality of the world. Even years after the camps were shut down, people still looked down on the Japanese. They thought they were strange and kept their children away from them. It was hard for Jeanne to make friends in high school and hard for her to embrace her culture. For me, as someone who is of a different culture than most of the United States population, it angers me to see these actions of hatred towards the Japanese. This book should forever serve as a reminder to the nation to never do this again, to never lock someone up or suspect someone solely based on their race. Through seeing how this rash action driven by fear affected so many children and families in a bad way, everyone should learn to never judge a book by its cover.
Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1973. Buy the book here and support Stone Soup in the process!