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Essay by   •  June 8, 2011  •  Essay  •  1,974 Words (8 Pages)  •  2,343 Views

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Japanese Internment Camps

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Autor: anton 08 March 2011

Tags: Japanese, Internment

Words: 1774 | Pages: 8

Views: 41

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Japanese American Internment Camps

Overwhelmingly the response of people in times of desperation is to survive at all costs and make the best of the situation. American history in the mid 20th century provides vivid example of desperate times such as those who were hit hardest by the era of the depression and also those who were displaced from their homes into Internment camps following World War II and the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Comparing the fictional account of Julie Otsuka's novel, When the Emperor was Divine and the historical accounts of Japanese American women reveals the many different ways in which women handle themselves, not only through the events mentioned, but also through themes that both accounts share such as adversity, prejudice, and perseverance. The novel's account of the evacuation and imprisonment of Japanese American is a subtle and understated retelling of the horrific experience of the Japanese Americans. While the historical accounts describe the evacuation of Japanese Americans as one of the most horrifying experience anyone could have been through.

According to Valerie Matsumoto, author of "Japanese American Women during World War II;" "the bombing of pearl harbor on December 7, 1941, unleashed war between the United States and Japan and Triggered a wave of hostility against Japanese Americans" (7). This hostility led to the signing of Executive Order 9066 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, "[this order ] arbitrarily suspend[ed] the civil rights of American citizens by authorizing the removal of 110,000 Japanese and their American- Born children from the western half of the Pacific Coastal States and the southern third of Arizona"(Matsumoto 7). The novel When the Emperor Was Divine, by Julia Otsuka is a heartbreaking, bracingly unsentimental poetic and detailed description of the travails of a Japanese family living in an internment camp during World War II, raising the presence of wartime injustice in a bone-chilling fashion. After a woman whose husband was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy sees notices posted around her neighborhood in Berkeley instructing Japanese residents to evacuate, she moves with her son and daughter to an internment camp, abruptly severing her ties with her community (3-4, 8). The next three years are spent in filthy, cramped and impersonal lodgings as the family is shuttled from one camp to another. They return to Berkeley after the war to a home that has been ravaged by vandals; it takes time for them to adjust to life outside the camps and to come to terms with the hostility they face (108-111).

In her novel Otsuka gave a detailed account of the mother's preparation and what the family was allowed to take with them. They were allowed to "take with them: bedding and linen, forks, spoons, plates, clothes..." (9).They had to leave their house and all the possession behind and go off to these evacuation camps. Otsuka showed how the women gave away their cat, killed the dog and had the chicken for dinner (9-12). The article "Japanese Women during World War II" by Matsumoto states "Families received a scant week's notice in which to "wind up affairs...close up their homes... Each person was allowed to bring only as many clothes and personal items as he or she could carry to the temporary assembly centers..." (7).The hasty evacuation and lack of awareness of what to expect had a great impact on these women. Some women gave accounts of being numbed and overwhelmed by the entire situation. The women were afraid to come to the realization that they were leaving their homes, friends and neighborhoods behind.

Otsuka in novel relates the plight of the family; the little girl's father was taken away from the home late in the night wearing his bathrobe and slippers (140). In Donna K. Nagata article, titled " Expanding the Internment Narrative," she relates the story of young girls between the ages of 9 and 24 years old "[who had] their fathers arrested and separated from their family" (73). She notes that the young women's families' home was "raided by the FBI, reading her sister's love letters, and dismantling or confiscating any object they considered suspicious" (74). The trauma these families went through was very painful and humiliating; they were not charge for any offence and had to suffer the humiliation of having their fathers arrested for just being a Japanese American.

In the novel Ostuka gave an account of how the girl would stay out late at night and attend bingo parties (72). She writes, "Late at night he heard sound of the door opening, and footsteps... and then his sister was suddenly at there by the window...I won a nickel at bingo tonight" (72). The book, The Great Betrayal by Audrie Girdner and Anne Loftis states that "the overcrowded apartments, the mess hall dining, and the [existence] of large peer groups were factors that drew young [women or girls] from parental supervision" (314). Most Japanese American lost control over their teenage girls because they themselves were pre-occupied by their own demise and frustration with the condition they were living under. This left them with no choice but to give up their parental responsibilities, and the children took advantage of the freedom. One girl noted that she "used to sneak out to dances and stay at friend's apartment" (Girdner, Loftis, 314). For many of these girls life at the interment camps was like leaving "the country to the city with new temptation for idleness and mischief" (Girdner, Loftis, 314).

Julia Ostuka describes the family's quarters; she writes, "inside there were three iron cots and a potbellied stove and a single bare bulb...A table make out of cratewood" (50-51). Nagata asserts that "[many] mothers struggled to care for their...children under

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