Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston

1175 Words5 Pages
The book, Farewell to Manzanar was the story of a young Japanese girl coming of age in the interment camp located in Owens Valley, California. Less than two months after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt signed an Executive Order, which stated that the War Department had the right to declare which people were a threat to the country, and move them wherever they so pleased. Since the West Coast had a large number of Japanese immigrants at the time, the Executive Order was basically an act that authorized the government to remove Japanese residing on the West Coast away from their homes and put them in these interment camps. As harsh as it may sound, the interment camps were nothing like the infamous Nazi interment camps of World War II. Manzanar residents enjoyed relatively comfortable living conditions, and lived fairly comfortable lives as compared to those of German interment camps. However, it was still rough, as many families were separated and emotional scars lingered long after the experience. Farewell to Manzanar is the story of one girl making the difficult transition to womanhood, at a difficult time, and at a difficult location. Two of the main life lessons that Jeannie learned during her stay at Manzanar dealt with the issues of her identity as an American against her Japanese heritage, and also with her treatment in school. During her time at Manzanar, Jeannie was surrounded by almost exclusively Japanese people, and did not have much exposure to Caucasians, or people of other races. Therefore, she did not know what to truly expect when she went out into the “school world” outside of Manzanar. She had received some schooling while in Manzanar; however, the American schools were drastically different from the schools inside of Manzanar. While inside Manzanar, Jeannie learned more skills in the fine arts, such as baton twirling, and ballet. Though “hard” subjects were taught, Jeannie didn’t mention them as much as she did about the baton twirling, ballet, and Catechesis. The schools at Manzanar were not much until the second year. The first year, volunteers taught the schools, and resources were pretty scarce. However, in the second year, teachers were hired, and the number of available supplies increased. One key thing that Jeannie remembers about her Manzanar schooling was her participation in the yearbook, and also with the ... ... middle of paper ... ...he fact that she was pretending to be of a culture which she did not belong to. She was dressed as an American, acting as an American, even though she was of Japanese descent. Under Papa’s orders, she signed up for odori class, however, she performed terribly and was basically kicked out of class by the instructor. Jeannie Wakatsuki lived a very diverse life, as she was subjected to both life inside of an interment camp and American high school. Attending American high school was a character shaping experience, and even more so for someone of a minority race or gender. The experience lets them know where their race stands among others, and if they will be completely accepted in the “outside world”. Unfortunately for Jeannie, she was not totally accepted by others throughout her life, and that left psychological scars on her. However, she came out of these experiences a better and more well rounded person, so they were not totally negative for her. A note of interest is that she ended up marrying a non-Japanese person, possibly due to her growing up and maturing around non-Japanese. The book Farewell to Manzanar fully illustrates her thoughts and feelings throughout this process.
Open Document