Review: Farewell to Manzanar

Farewell to Manzanar
Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel is based on the real-life experiences of author Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, who spent three years as a young teen in the Manzanar Relocation Camp in southeastern California. The story starts in 1941 when Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor and by 1942, the US War Department had adopted the Japanese-American relocation act and Wakatsuki’s family was forced to move. The horrible conditions, humiliation dehumanizing experiences of those held in the Japanese internment camps is captured in vivid description in this book. Jeanne’s perspective and memories of the toll on families and entire generation of Japanese Americans has great impact for all readers, not just teens.

Farewell to Manzanar follows Jeanne and her family to their life after they are released from Manzanar and this glimpse into the return to “normal” life is an important and impactful one. The prejudice and injustice of the internment camps is easy to comprehend; the subtleties of racism and oppression suffered in quieter ways by Jeanne and her family after their release are more difficult to see right away but once recognized, they are impossible to ignore. The difference in high school experiences for Jeanne and her best friend Radine bring into focus the stark differences for the two girls who share everything but their ethnicity. The prejudices Japanese Americans face, as immigrants to this country before and after the war, are part of the fabric of our country. Stories like this remind us that these prejudices have not all disappeared. Racism and justice, through action and inaction, define who we are as a nation and a species and novels like this help teens shine a light on who they are and who they might want to become.

Age Range: 12 and up
Grade Level: 7 and up
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Ember; 1 edition (February 14, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307976076
ISBN-13: 978-0307976079

 

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