Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Thursday, March 1, 2012

Plot Summary:
When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the President of the United States issued Executive Order 9066 stating that all person of Japanese Ancestry were to relocate to interment camps. In other words, Japanese Americans, along with their families, had less than three days to gather their belongings and take of their affairs before the government shipped them off to the unknown. For seven-year-old Jeanne Wakatsuki, she and her family were uprooted from the home in Long Beach and sent to live in ghettos and barracks for being Japanese. In this tale, Wakatsuki tells us about her experience in Manzanar, an internment camp, where she and her family had to start all over again in the barren desert, knowing that they have done nothing wrong. More importantly, Wakatsuki enlightens readers with accounts of daily life in the camp, the conditions they had to endure, the shame and anger that hung in the air, family dynamics, violence within the camp, and the sheer injustice of having their civil rights stripped.

Critical Evaluation:
In this riveting biography, readers will experience life during on the darkest times in American History. Not only were American citizens unlawfully imprisoned, this story shows the power of the human spirit during war time. Unfortunately, the Japanese Internment has yet to be fully covered in every curriculum across the country, this book is extremely important. As a young person, Jeanne Wakatsuki uncovers very heavy issues that most tween and teens will not experience, but provide readers with legitimate answers to difficult questions such as: "What does it mean to be an American" and "How could something like this happen?" Young people, today, are fortunate enough to live in an age where prejudice and fear, although they still does exist, cannot, whatsoever, strip them of their constitutional rights as American citizens. Although this happened almost 70 years ago, it still is an issue that activists and lawmakers will never, ever forget. As the granddaughter of an internee, I cannot express how angry this made me. When my grandmother would tell me her story, I was taken aback about the lack of anger that was in her tone. Ultimately, like Jeanne Wakatsuki, she and my family had no choice but to endure because it is not in our nature to just give up. The Japanese Americans are an extraordinarily group of people who don't roll over and die; they resumed their daily lives behind the barbed wire, which will impress readers and convey that even in the worst of times, there is always hope. This is a touching story and one that we should never, ever forget.   

Information about the Author:
Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston was born on September 26, 1964 in Ingelwood California. She was the youngest of nine children. She and her family were evacuated from their Long Beach home in 1942 and were interned at the Manzanar Relocation Camp. According to a Wikipedia article:
Several years after leaving the camp in 1945, Jeanne went to San Jose St. College where she studied sociology and journalism. She met her husband James, there and they married in 1957. Jeanne later decided to tell her story about the time she spent in Manzanar in Farewell to Manzanar, co-authored with her husband, James D. Houston in 1972. Ten years later, in 1967, Jeanne gave birth to twins, Joshua and Gabriel. A third child was born years later. In an effort to educate Californians about the experiences of Japanese Americans who were imprisoned during World War II, the book and the movie were distributed in 2002 as a part of kit to approximately 8,500 public elementary and secondary schools and 1,500 public libraries in California.
Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston continues to write and speak about the Japanese American experience at Manzanar and Asian American issues.

American History

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 7 & up

Books Similar to Farewell to Manzanar:
Awards & Recognition:
 "A poignant memoir from a Japanese American. . . . Told without bitterness, her story reflects the triumph of the human spirit during an extraordinary episode in American history." ~ Library Journal

"[Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston] describes vividly the life in the camp and the humiliations suffered by the detainees... A sober and moving personal account." ~Publishers Weekly

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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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