Farewell to Manzanar: Life in a Japanese Internment Camp during WWII

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In the true story "Farewell to Manzanar" we learn of a young girl's life as she grows up during World War II in a Japanese internment camp. Along with her family and ten thousand other Japanese; we see how, as a child, these conditions forced to shape and mold her life. This book does not directly place blame or hatred onto those persons or conditions which had forced her to endure hardship, but rather shows us through her eyes how these experiences have held value she has been able to grow from.

Jeanne Wakatsuki was just a seven year old growing up in Ocean Park, California when her whole life was about to change. Everything seemed to be going well, her father owning two fishing boats, and they lived in a large house with a large dining table which was located in an entirely non-Japanese neighborhood. The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese was the moment Jeanne's life was critically altered. This started WWII and all Japanese were seen as possible threats to the nations safety. It is not difficult to see, but difficult to justify this view, and therefore Jeanne Wakatsuki, just a child, was now seen as a monster. Her father was immediately arrested and taken away, being accused with furnishing oil to Japanese subs off the coast. And now, Jeanne left without a father, her mother was trapped with the burden of Jeanne's rapidly aging grandmother and her nine brothers and sisters. Too young to understand, Jeanne did not know why or where her father had been taken. But she did know that one very important part of her was gone.

Jeanne's father was a very strong, military-like, proud, arrogant, and dignified man. He was the one who was always in control, and made all the decisions for the family. He grew up in Japan, but left at the age of seventeen, headed for work in Hawaii, and never again went back. Leaving his own family behind and never contacting them ever again. But now it was time for Jeanne's family to do something. They found refuge at Terminal Island, a place where many Japanese families live either in some transition stage or for permanent residents. Jeanne was terrified. " It was the first time I had lived among other Japanese, or gone to school with them, and I was terrified all the time." Her father, as a way of keeping his children in line, told them, "I'm going to sell you to the Chinaman." So when Jeanne saw all these Japanese kids she assumed she was being sold. They were soon given 48 hours to find a new place to stay. Again they found refuge in a minority ghetto in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles. But then the government issued Executive Order 9066 which gave the War Dept. power to define military areas in the western states. Anyone who could possibly threaten the war effort (Japanese) were going to be transported to internment camps. As Jeanne boarded the Greyhound bus someone tied a number tag to her collar and one to her duffel bag. So, for now on all families had numbers to which they could be identified. No longer people, but animals hearded off to some unknown place. This was to be their destiny for the rest of the war, and long after.

Being a child, Jeanne was too young to comprehend what all this really meant. She knew that her dad was away and her family was moving a lot. At first, for Jeanne this seemed exciting, like an adventure, since she had never been outside of L.A. before. Jeanne is a Nissei, a natural born citizen of the United States. But, again this really didn't mean much to her. What could she do, and what could she know? Up to this point her life had been relatively simple. As a 7-yr. old, one doesn't really know much about life yet. This was soon to change for her, as she is now being forced into a world guarded behind barbed wire.

Manzanar, located near Lone Pine, California was the camp Jeanne's family, kept together only by an effort made by Jeanne's mother, was assigned to. The conditions were raw, cold, windy and unfriendly. In a sense a metaphor for Jeanne, their...
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