Thursday, November 30, 2017
Review: Uprooted: The Japanese-American Experience During World War II
The year was 1941. The Japanese had just attacked Pearl Harbor and killed over 2400 people, while sinking or damaging a good portion of the Pacific fleet. People at home were understandably angry and scared. With pressure from others, Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 to evacuate and detain persons of Japanese descent living on the West Coast of the United States. Japanese-Americans, many of them who were born in the USA, were given very little notice to vacate their homes, were moved into holding facilities, and finally relocated to quickly erected camps in various locations around the country. Behind barbed wire and guarded day and night, Japanese-Americans were treated like they were the ones who attacked Pearl Harbor, like the U.S.A. was at war with them. To make this all the more galling, no similar camps were set up to imprison German or Italian-Americans even though we were clearly at war with them, too.
In Uprooted: The Japanese-American Experience During World War II author Albert Marrin takes a close look at the racism in America that led to the internment of its citizens and back-fills the events with historical events that led to that fateful decision. He also allows to reader to get up close and personal with life within the internment camps and introduces us to many of the prisoners in a personal way.
Even though I was on vacation in China I was determined to keep up with my readings for Cybils judging. As we traveled from Beijing to Xi'an via a bullet train, I settled in with my Kindle to read Uprooted. I expected to only learn a few things about Japanese history and then onto the American story, but I was surprised to find myself reading about Chinese history in the opening chapters of the book. Apparently Japanese history is very tangled up with its neighbor to the west, China. As I was rocketing past the Chinese landscape at 300 km/hr I learned about how WWII started in China in 1931 when Japan invaded Manchuria in Northeast China and eventually drove further south and west attempting to capture the whole country and all its resources. This long involvement in China is what ultimately led to Japan invading us at Pearl Harbor. Their commanders thought that involving the USA in a war would allow them to get the fuel they needed to prevail in China! How fascinating to be reading about this while I was in China! When I mentioned some of what I had learned to our guide the next day, he was quite impressed that I was so interested in their history.
Though we weren't at war with China, many Chinese-Americans felt the racism directed at them after Pearl Harbor, too. It really was not our best moment as a country and our ugly racism surely showed itself for what it was. After the war ended, those who were interned were just released. No reparations were made for the businesses and homes they lost during the internment years. Many had to return to communities where they were met with the continual ugliness of racism. Not until 1988 did the government officially apologize to the 100,000 Japanese-Americans who were treated so unfairly. They also received a small monetary compensation of $20,000 each, which barely touches all they lost.
I cannot begin to tell you how much I like this book. It is superbly written and researched. The photos added to an understanding of how much devastation was done to a race of people even though they were American citizens. I highly recommend it to all readers, not just to the target young adult audience. May this book serve as a reminder that we will never again do such a dreadful thing to our own citizens.