May 21, 2013
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While Americans fought for freedom and democracy abroad, fear and suspicion towards Japanese Americans swept the country after Japan's sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. Culling information from extensive, previously unpublished interviews and oral histories with Japanese American survivors of internment camps, Martin W. Sandler gives an in-depth account of their lives before, during their imprisonment, and after their release. Bringing readers inside life in the internment camps and explaining how a country that is built on the ideals of freedom for all could have such a dark mark on its history, this in-depth look at a troubling period of American history sheds light on the prejudices in today's world and provides the historical context we need to prevent similar abuses of power.
Imprisoned told a much fuller story than I was expecting. The internment of more than one hundred thousand persons of Japanese descent living along the West coast is an under discussed part of US history.
Sandler's book not only talks about the immediate lead up to Executive Order 9066, the attack on Pearl Harbor and the distrust of Japanese Americans, it also goes farther back, telling readers of the Japanese coming to America, establishing themselves as a part of American society and the discrimination they were already facing as immigrants. It gives a much fuller picture of just how much a part of the country those that were interned were. It also gives a much better idea of the hostility they were already facing prior to the US being at war with Japan and, then, how much they left behind.
The personal quotes from those imprisoned, or their children or grandchildren, made everything much more personal. I've read read - and seen - other things on the topic but it was some of the anecdotes in Imprisoned that both were the most resonant, that I think really helped me 'get it' in a way I haven't before.
The 'more' that was in Imprisoned that I wasn't expecting was how much, outside of the information about the actual imprisoning, of the internment camps, was in the book. I knew, of course, of the racism that had to have been present, of the fear, for the internment camps to be possible. What I hadn't known was just how blatant it had been in some cases, how unabashed some public figures had been, even prior to Pearl Harbor and how obviously just absurd it was.
Just as important, however, was the other information the book provided: about the Japanese Americans who fought during World War II. (At least, those in dedicated Japanese American units, there were also some -- and this is not in the book, but in my personal history/knowledge -- who were in other units.) Those who hadn't been in favor of the internment camps -- that there had been public and vocal opposition -- and some of what happened even during the war; what happened after the war when everyone returned home.
Sandler takes the book, the information further than I expected, but to a point where I think is not only logical, but also both a very good choice and appreciated. Imprisoned is a book about the betrayal of Japanese Americans during World War II but it's also about their lives both before and after that period. It doesn't limit who they are to only that time period. In Imprisoned we get a fairly full picture of their lives and how the years around World War II and their imprisonment affected them -- and how they used it to hopefully affect others and stop the same thing from ever happening again.
Though, Imprisoned is published by a 'children's' publisher, I don't believe it is only a children's publisher. It contained information I did not previously know, presented in a very interesting manner. One that anyone from middle school to adult should looking to learn about the subject should enjoy.
The photographs included added to the topic and made everything easier to imagine, and more real and personal.
thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for my egalley for review