The Literature of Japanese American Incarceration

Penguin Classics. May 2024. 336p. ed. by Frank Abe & Floyd Cheung. ISBN 9780143133285. pap. $20. SOC SCI
Editors Abe (creator of the PBS documentary Conscience and the Constitution; coauthor, We Hereby Refuse) and Chung (English, Smith Coll.; editor, The Hanging on Union Square) have brought together 68 primary- and secondary-source texts (some previously published, some newly translated) about the period during World War II when the U.S. government imprisoned 125,000 Americans with Japanese ancestry in concentration camps. This collection organizes essays, memoirs, newspaper columns, letters, and poetry into three chronological parts: before the camps, in the camps, and after the camps (the latter section spotlighting responses from survivors and their descendants). The texts describe the community that existed, the arrests, and the people’s response to their incarceration, plus firsthand descriptions of the camps and their treatment of prisoners. The volume offers multifaceted reflections from Japanese Americans who attempted to retain their dignity during a time when their government dehumanized them.
VERDICT An accessible examination of the U.S. concentration camps that held people solely because of their race and heritage, plus a look at how they impacted society and generations to come. Important for both researchers and students.
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