Farewell to Manzanar: Short Review

Fighting a war against the oppression and persecution of a people, how hypocritical of the American government to harass and punish those based on their heritage. Magnifying the already existing dilemma of discrimination, the bombing of Pearl Harbor introduced Japanese-Americans to the harsh and unjust treatment they were forced to confront for a lifetime to come. Wakatsuki Ko, after thirty-five years of residence in the United States, was still prevented by law from becoming an American citizen.

Denied citizenship by the United States, a man without a country, he was tormented and interrogated by the government based on this reality, labeled a disloyal citizen to the U.S. Severing Ko from the remainder of his family, the FBI detained as many as 1370 Japanese-Americans, classifying them as dangerous enemy aliens. As much as a year would pass before he would see his family again, joining them at Manzanar, a concentration camp. Forced to destroy all memoirs of his Japanese heritage, fearful such things would allude to Japanese allegiance, Ko no longer possessed any material possessions to account for his ancestry.

Convinced that those Japanese-Americans living close to the coast posed as a threat to the success of the American army, they were forced to abandon their homes and their belongings to move inland. Allowing as much as a carload per family and possessions, much of their property was left behind. Executive Order 9066 forced all Japanese-Americans from western states into military areas, placing disconnected and detached families into various internment camps.

Young and not yet attentive to the Americanized way of hate, Jeanne Wakatsuki, youngest daughter of Ko, did not revolt or resist the discrimination her family faced at Manzanar. Forced to live in confining and unsuitable shacks, four persons to a room, the family structure disintegrated while family members grew farther and farther apart. In these camps, privacy did not exist, solitude a scarce thing. These people were thrown into unlivable sheds in the middle of a desert. They were treated as an inferior class, one subordinate to white Americans.

Disregarding the past years spent at an internment camp, the years that disassembled her family into a blur of oblivion, Jeanne chose to familiarize herself with the American way. Although forbidden U.S. citizenship, she made numerous attempts to Americanize herself, opting for such standings as Girl Scout, baton leader, Homecoming Queen. However competent and capable this young woman was, she was repeatedly denied because of her race, her appearance, her Japanese heritage which in actuality she knew nothing about. Not only did she accept this rejection, she understood it, somehow justifying it as appropriate conclusion.

Upon the closing of WWII, Japanese-Americans were released into a world of hatred. They were released into a world in which they were still the antagonist, still the enemy. Discrimination based on appearance and descent, racism controlled every aspect of that persons life. Work, school, home, leisure, and all conditions of living were to remain regulated by an inferior and secondary division of living until society would progress to make change and transform our society into one of equality.