Sunday, July 06, 2008

'Farewell to Manzanar'

by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston

Non-Fiction/Autobiography, 1973
Dell (Random House), mm pb, 207 p.
Manzanar website
Jeanne Wakatsuki was seven years old in 1942 when her family was uprooted from their home and sent to live at Manzanar internment camp – with ten thousand other Japanese Americans. Along with searchlight towers and armed guards, Manzanar ludicrously featured cheerleaders, Boy Scouts, sock hops, baton twirling lessons, and a dance band called The Jive Bombers, who would play any popular song except the nation’s No. 1 hit: “Don’t Fence Me In.”
Farewell to Manzanar is the true story of one spirited Japanese American family’s attempt to survive the indignities of forced detention…and of a native-born American child who discovered what it was like to grow up behind barbed wire in the United States.
I’d had this book suggested to me a few times, most recently after reading Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata. I’m always interested in reading immigrant stories and ones relating to Japan or the Japanese, so I’m glad I finally got around to it. It was also interesting to get some insight into what the internment camps were really like, or at least Manzanar, and to see how the experience affected the Japanese Americans after the war, and how the different generations coped with life both in and out of the camp. Plus seeing the camp through a child’s eyes was at times amusing. I can see why this book is often taught in schools. A worthwhile read.

My Rating: 3.5/5
(#28 for 2008, Non-Fiction Five Challenge #1)
Near Block 28 some of the men who had been professional gardeners built a small park, with mossy nooks, ponds, waterfalls and curved wooden bridges. Sometimes in the evenings we could walk down the raked gravel paths. You could face away from the barracks, look past a tiny rapids toward the darkening mountains, and for a while not be a prisoner at all.
Photo from wikipedia.

Reminder: If you've read and reviewed this title, let me know and I'll link to it here.


  1. I'll have to put this one on my wish list, although I've just now totally run out of credits at PBS. Horrors!

  2. This book was assigned reading when I was in the 7th grade and I remember really liking the book at the time. The site of one of the Japanese internment camps is not too far from where I grew up in the later part of my childhood and so this is a part of American history that was close to home in more ways than one. When I think the lives that were stolen from all of the people locked behind the fences of these internment camps, the treatment they had to endure . . . It's definitely a dark spot in my country's history.

    I am glad you were able to read this book, Nat.

  3. Nancy- LOL. Well maybe you'll win 3M's giveaway! :P

    Wendy- I can see how that would be, as you said, close to home in more ways than one. It's a dark spot in Canada's history too but I didn't even know about it as a child. I'm glad there are books out there though reminding, or teaching, us of that time.

  4. Great review! I added it to my TBR.

    Japanese American/ Canadian internment is a great topic of interest to me. My husband and I toured a Canadian one last year, in the Kootneys. Very small, harsh quarters!

  5. Teddy Rose- That's interesting that you visited one of the Canadian internment camps. For a Canadian perspective, I assume you've read Obasan by Joy Kogawa but if you haven't you really should.

  6. I haven't read it yet, but it is on my TBR. Quite a few years ago there was a documentary "Obasan's Garden". It was excellent!

  7. Teddy Rose- The documentary sounds great! The only other book I've read that's about the Japanese internment, again in the US, was Snow Falling on Cedars, but it's a topic I'm interested in as well.


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