They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, illustrated by Eisinger Scott Becker
I am a big fan of George Takei; when I was a girl, I watched him in episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series as Hikaru Sulu. More recently, I have admired his social activism and support worldwide for democracy, especially for LGBQ rights. Now I admire him even more for his courage and conviction in the face of the oppression he and his family suffered during the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. What a gift his graphic novel memoir is! I am recommending and gifting the book to all my friends and family. It’s perfect to share with middle grade and high school readers, and to read as an adult. Be prepared for intense discussion!
Both Jim and I read it straight through once we started it. Though I knew a little about the imprisonment of Japanese Americans during the war, I learned so much about the racism and political atmosphere that led to this disgraceful and shocking period. Takei’s mother was born in the United States, but his father, while raised in the U.S., had been born in Japan. He was not a U.S. citizen because at the time it was illegal for Asians to apply for U.S. citizenship. (Shocking, right?) Not only that, the Japanese Americans all lost their homes, their jobs, and worst of all, their freedom. Takei and his family survived 4 years in two different internment camps.
Takei uses flashbacks as well as more contemporary episodes to document his experiences. It is such a timely book for all of us to read now. To quote George Takei: “The resonance of my childhood imprisonment is so loud today…every headline, every morning…It’s an endless cycle of one inhumanity, cruelty, injustice, repeated generation after generation. And it’s got to stop. We have to learn our history. America is a land that is made up of the desendents of immigrants.” (Washington Post interview with George Takei, published 7/16/19).
Most highly recommended!