Thursday, May 16, 2013

Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston

genre: memoir 

As World War II looms, Jeanne's family is living a peaceful life on the shores of California.  While her father fishes in the family's fishing boat, she goes to elementary school like any other American.  When Pearl Harbor is bombed by the Japanese, however, her life abruptly changes because although she was born in America, her parents are Japanese. Her father is taken away and her family is moved to a relocation camp out in the desert - a camp called Manzanar.

This book is her memories of that place, of how they got there, how it changed them and what it was like after they got to leave.  It is told in a very straightforward voice, perfect, I think, for younger teens to get a glimpse at what life as a true 'outsider' is like.  I read this along with my 7th grader daughter and I am glad that they are studying this rather shameful side of our country's history.  Jeanne never rants or acts critical - actually, she's incredibly patriotic.  She just tells what she did and how things seemed to HER, as a child, and she is able to also look back and figure out WHY she dealt with things, especially the very blatant racism, the way she did.

And while this is definitely an interment-camp-story, it's also a family story.  It is Jeanne watching her father, as children do, seeing him scramble to retrieve his stolen dignity.  It is Jeanne watching her mother handle being uprooted and then dropped down into a shack the size of a modern-day master bathroom and trying to turn it into a home for her and her children.

I found this a quick and interesting read.  Great for teens with any interest in history.

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