They Called Us Enemy – book review

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They Called Us Enemy
by George Takei
Autobiography
Biography
Graphic Novel
Nonfiction
* * * * * Stars (Amazing!)

After Japan entered WWII and bombed Pearl Harbor a wave of fear and distrust of Japanese people washed over the United States and the government enacted policies that removed those of Japanese ancestry (US citizens included) from their homes to internment camps where they were closely monitored for acts of treason. Anti-Japanese sentiment ran high over the course of the war and the prejudice persisted even after. George Takei, well-known for his portrayal of Sulu on Star Trek (and these days for his social media presence), was just a boy when he and his family were sent to a camp. He and his younger siblings didn’t really understand what was going on at the time, and his parents tried to make things as normal and stable as possible for their children under the circumstances. George’s mother created a safe and comfortable home for them all in a horse stall (their first accommodation), and George’s father took on increasing responsibilities as a leader in their block and their neighbors saw him as someone they could trust and come to with problems. The people in the camps lost their homes, businesses, and savings (bank accounts were frozen) in addition to their freedom – losses that many of them never recouped. When George was older he was furious about these injustices. Eventually, after the end of the war, the incarcerated Japanese were released – some chose to return to Japan, some fought legal battles to remain in the United States even though they had been sorely mistreated by it. This autobiographical graphic novel tells the moving, sometimes heartbreaking story of George’s family’s experience in the internment camps, and what happened after. Although this part of US history has received more attention in recent years, many people are unaware of it. This is an illuminating and important account and shows what can happen when we allow our fears to control us.

Reviewed by YA Librarian

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