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Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki…

Farewell to Manzanar (1973)

by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, James D. Houston

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  1. 10
    The Fences Between Us : the Diary of Piper Davis by Kirby Larson (keristars)
    keristars: A rather obvious recommendation, but just in case: both books are about the Japanese-American Internment in WW2. One from a Japanese-American girl's point of view (and a memoir), the other is a fictional diary from a white American girl's point of view.

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“Mountain now loosens rivulets of tears.
Washed stones, forgotten clearing.”
--Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston

When my father was a boy, he learned that he’d been adopted by the man whom he’d thought was his father. Digging through a dusty trunk in his attic, he found legal documents that gave him the name he wore and the father he knew, but also uncovering an origin that had been hidden from him.

His mother was, by all accounts, a volatile woman – her siblings called her “the hornet” because her sting was quick and painful. She was a hard woman, and reticent to either acknowledge or divulge anything about his biological father. Over the years, he eventually learned from other relatives that she met Mr. Black – it was his name, but also a metaphor for much more – in a late 1920’s dance hall. He left her pregnant, taking whatever money he could get his hands hand on when he went.

Late in his life, after his mother died, my dad started quizzing other relatives for information about Mr. Black, and learned that he had a half-brother and half-sister. He reached out to them, curious about the man who would have been his father. Curious, too, about his other, unlived life, the one that you imagine still plays out, with another you – who isn’t really you, but a slightly better you, in a slightly better corner of the universe – with another family, another father who didn’t abandon you. It’s universal, sons and daughters searching for the person their parents used to be, if only a little more charged in those who’ve been disconnected from their bloodline.

Dad was a junior high school English teacher. He often brought a copy of the books he was teaching his students – [Romeo and Juliet] or [Shane]. Before teaching, he had served in reconstruction Japan after the bombs were dropped. What little he ever said about his war service, he always brightened up when he spoke about Japan and the Japanese people. So, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that he brought home a copy of [Farewell to Manzanar] when he introduced it to his class. Of course, I ignored it, like the other books Dad brought home, exiting the room quickly when he tried to talk to me about why it was important to him.

Wandering through a bookstore in California, I happened on a bright orange and yellow-covered book, calling out to me from the shelves. When I pulled it down, my breath caught as I read the title – [Farewell to Manzanar]. I brought it home and shelved it with the other non-fiction titles in my library, but it pulled at me when I walked by, urging me to reconnect with my father.

Compact and paperback, it was a perfect choice for a recent business trip. In the pressurized air, as I began to read it, I heard my father in Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston’s story, saw his own longing and search for a father he didn’t know.

[Farewell to Manzanar] is generally categorized as a story about the internment of Japanese American’s following the attack on Pearl Harbor – a cautionary tale about how fear can overcome basic honor and respect. But it’s so much more, if you listen.

Jeanne Wakatsuki was interned with her family at Manzanar, in a desert valley between two mountain ranges in eastern California. She was seven years old and she spent the next four years of her life in the camp. But her father was taken first to Fort Lincoln, falsely accused of aiding Japanese submarines off the California coast while fishing. When he joined his family at Manzanar, he was broken, changed. He arrived with a limp and a habit for the bottle. Wakatsuki longed to discover what had happened to her father, but it wasn’t until she begin writing [Farewell to Manzanar] that she started to understand that her father’s life ended at Manzanar, where her life began. She may have embarked on writing this book to tell her family’s story, and the country’s, but what she was really doing was giving voice to the search for her father, a man she didn’t know.

It’s no wonder that my own father found himself in the pages of Wakatsuki’s book, saw her search as his own. And reading [Farewell to Manzanar] helped me to understand him.

Bottom Line: Life in a Japanese internment camp – but also a search for a father.

5 bones!!!!! ( )
11 vote blackdogbooks | Mar 12, 2016 |
I bought this book in the "classics" section of a used bookstore. I wouldn't classify this book as classic but it's still a very nice read. The characters are a bit shallow and it's hard to feel anything for them because of it. The story held me enough to want to read more but also kept me from 'loving' it. A solid book about a Japanese American family during WW2. ( )
  yougotamber | Aug 22, 2014 |
Author Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston has succeeded in writing a book that is readable and worthwhile for any reader -- I would say ages 12 to adult. I wish I had been assigned this in school, for I did not learn about Japanese internment camps until much later, probably my senior year in high school. I'd be willing to venture that even many high school students don't learn much about this part of American history.

The author wisely avoids pathos and melodrama, which allows the situation to speak for itself, standing out in stark relief against the backdrop of a "normal" life outside the camp. She manages to show us the dissolution of a family, the struggle to find and maintain an identity in an artificially created city, populated by law, not by choice. These are bitter, difficult things and Wakatsuki Houston allows the impact to sneak up on the reader.

This is no finger-pointing, harshly worded attempt at implicating the reader and forcing an emotional response. Instead, it is a deeply personal account which leaves one to absorb its impact slowly, wanting to learn more, and wanting to know how we can stop this from happening again. More than once, we've since been on the brink of repeating these past mistakes, which makes this book a timely and important read.
( )
  ksimon | Feb 6, 2014 |
Screening for an 8th-grade-appropriate title that's about the internment camps and isn't dull. I was sort of interested in this, but it reads very slowly and then I set it down and forgot I was reading it for a while, so it obviously didn't draw me back in. Which doesn't bode well for the 13-year-old attention span.
  librarybrandy | Mar 30, 2013 |
Jeanne Watatsuki Houston recalls her family's internment in Manzanar, one of the Western camps to which Japanese citizens and non-citizens alike were evacuated after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Houston's story has a special poignancy because there were aspects of the camp that became familiar and comfortable to her. She describes her family's history before and after their years in the camp as a context for the interpersonal strains during their internment. In addition, she describes the phenomenon of not fitting in as a more general developmental issue, one made particularly acute in her case by the intersection of adolescence and racism.

Since the research shows that most people who were interned in these camps did not discuss the experience with their own children, and that those who did have only a very brief conversation about it, Houston's account is all the more important and moving. Read in conjunction with Kessler's Stubborn Twig: Three Generations in the Life of a Japanese American Family and Wiesel's Night for comparison and contrast. ( )
  OshoOsho | Mar 30, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jeanne Wakatsuki Houstonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Houston, James D.main authorall editionsconfirmed
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It is sobering to recall that though the Japanese relocation program, carried through at such incalculable cost in misery and tragedy, was justified on the ground that the Japanese were potentially disloyal, the record does not disclose a single case of Japanese disloyalty or sabotage during the whole war...
Henry Steele Commager, Harper's Magazine, 1947

Life has left her footprints on my forehead
But I have become a child again this morning
The smile, seen through leaves and flowers, is back, too smooth
Away the wrinkles
As the rains wipe away footprints on the beach. Again a
Cycle of birth and death begins.
Thich Nhat Hanh, Viet Nam Poems (1967)
To the Memory of Ko and Riku Wakatsuki and Woodrow M. Wakatsuki
First words
On that first weekend in December there must have been twenty or twenty-five boats getting ready to leave.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553272586, Paperback)

Jeanne Wakatsuki was seven years old in 1942 when her family was uprooted from their home and sent to live at Manzanar internment camp--with 10,000 other Japanese Americans. Along with searchlight towers and armed guards, Manzanar ludicrously featured cheerleaders, Boy Scouts, sock hops, baton twirling lessons and a dance band called the Jive Bombers who would play any popular song except the  nation's #1 hit: "Don't Fence Me In."

Farewell to Manzanar is the true story of one spirited Japanese-American family's attempt to survive the indignities of forced detention . . . and of a native-born American child who discovered what it was like to grow up behind barbed wire in the United States.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:52 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston relates her experiences of living at the Manzanar internment camp during World War II and how it has influenced her life.

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