Author of Farewell to Manzanar, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston at the Chula Vista Public Library
Date: October 10, 2012 at 6pm
You know how in high school English classes they always make you read books that you personally wouldn’t pick up? In tenth grade we were assigned Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and I am truly grateful to have read it. Farewell to Manzanar is about Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston’s experience in the Japanese internment camps during World War II. Before reading this book I didn’t really know what an internment camp’s purpose was or how it affected the people who were placed in them. This book is an important piece of America’s history because it tells the story of a ten year old girl who was ripped from her normal life and put into a camp to protect “Americans”, even though she was one. The Chula Vista Library, as well as the Chula Vista Heritage Museum, hosted this event and brought the author Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston to Chula Vista to talk about her book and to provide a Q&A session. This event was held to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Japanese Internment.
This was a great event to attend because not only did I get to hear first-hand Houston’s experience in the internment camps, I learned the emotional impact her personalinternment had on her. When she talked about how something like this could happen Houston replied “ the powerful factor that let this injustice take place can’t be ignored: racism.” The Internment of Japanese Americans took place in 1942, after Pearl Harbor was bombed. Although many had stated the Japanese Americans were not a threat, they were overruled and the Executive Order 9066 was signed by President Roosevelt . Houston’s childhood years, between the ages 7 to 10, were spent at Manzanar yet it wasn’t until 30 years later thatshe found the courage to write her book. At the event she talked about why it took so long for her to write this novel and it was heartbreaking to hear: “I had carried a feeling of deep humiliation…I felt guilty for the bombing of Pearl Harbor.” It’s extraordinary the effect this internment had on Houston and the psychological distress it caused her. She spoke about how her family had always just joked about Manzanar and how they made it seem like it was just a summer camp, but when it came to writing the book she says she “dropped the cover of nonchalance and I cried and I couldn’t stop.” In the audience there was another member who was interned at Manzanar and the moment she mentioned she knew who Houston’s family was, chills crawled up my arms. Hearing the two of them swap memories about Manzanar brought tears to many eyes; it was such an emotional experience. As Houston wrapped up her Q&A session she left us with a strong piece of wisdom which every American should take to heart, “We (America) are so rich with diversity. What keeps us together is not our blood, not our richness: “It’s our ideals. We need to teach our children, what it means to be an American.”
Chula Vista Heritage Museum
360 Third Avenue, Chula Vista.
Hours:12-4 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday
12 to 3 p.m. Saturday.