My daughter’s class did “Farewell to Manzanar”, written by Jeanne Wakatsuki, as one of their 7th grade reads. Not having been raised in California, I wasn’t aware of Manzanar, and quite frankly, I knew very little of the Japanese internment during World War II. I had read books like “Snow Falling on Cedars” and “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” that deal with the internment, but that was the scope of my knowledge.
When my daughter told me she was reading this book, though, and how much it affected her, my interest got piqued. She’d come home and tell us how she was affected by the story, and of course, asked lots of difficult questions about war. Some we answered, some we could not, but it did provoke interesting discussions in our home at dinner time. One of their assignments was to do a faux news piece about this amazing story and its narrator, Ms. Wakatsuki. The link to my daughter’s article is below:
Then the school mentioned to the students that Jeanne Wakatsuki was going to do a reading at the Sunnyvale Public Library. It was on a weeknight, which is usually challenging for me as I work and commute, but my daughter and her friends were insistent on going, so I volunteered to take them, tired and rather grumpy. However, almost immediately upon arrival, I was drawn into Jeanne’s energy. She is a truly amazing woman: brave, articulate, and despite her experiences, found forgiveness and the ability to smile and exude warmth. She talked about her experiences, answered questions from a fascinating audience: seniors – white, Japanese and those of Japanese origin; Hawaiians, Asians like myself, students of all races, and encouraged people to write. She insisted her book was just a narration of her personal experience, encouraged along by her husband James Dudley Houston, a novelist himself. She said that everyone had experiences to share and stories to tell, and that we should all do so.
I encourage you all to read the link to my daughter’s article on Jeanne’s story above to experience her life, challenges and courage. Her grace is humbling indeed.