Autobiographical Elements In Farewell To Manzanar

June 22, 2022 by Essay Writer

The author Jeanne wrote her book to describe the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. Manzanar was the internment camp that the author’s family lived in. The writer and her husband want the readers to understand what occurred inside of the Manzanar Japanese internment camp. The author wished to describe the entire camp life. She also wanted to describe the social and cultural impacts that being Japanese during WWII and the implications that it had on herself and her family.

Jeanne was a part of a Japanese family that grew up in California near Long Beach during the 1940s. In the book, she describes they were the only Japanese family in the neighborhood. At the beginning of the book, Jeanne’s neighborhood was near a local fishing harbor Ocean Park. Which was close to Santa Monica. She was from a military family. They together worked on a fishing boat. Her father was a target of the American government due to his Japanese background. Her father was arrested by the government in 1941, shortly after Pearl Harbor was bombed. The author also described her father as being a major part of her life.

In her description of her time in Santa Monica, it appeared that the author was happy and enjoyed her schooling. She described her teacher in Santa Monica as a nice, kind, almost grandmother-like woman. Her teacher sailed in her father’s boat with the author’s family. Jeanne wrote that her teacher became emotional and cried when she learned the family had to move. After her father’s arrest, the author’s mother moved her family to Terminal Island.

She described living in a ghetto neighborhood in a shake home on Terminal Island. While in Terminal Island she reports that there were other Asian families. This was the first time the author had lived around other Japanese individuals. In Terminal Island she also observed that Japanese dialects were used, and she did not understand these. Jeanne wrote that she was viewed by the other students as an outsider. She described the kids like rough and ghetto-like.

While in a school other students were not kind to her because of this. Jeanne reports that after school she was afraid that they would ambush her. She would meet her brother after school and always took a different route walking home. She was later moved from Terminal Island by the Navy (during this time they had to leave/ sell many of their prized possessions). She then moved to downtown Los Angeles, California (Boil Heights) which was another minority ghetto. She was then re-enrolled in school here. She described she felt isolated by her white teacher while at school. She described the teacher as remote and “cold”. The author adds that she struggled in school while at Boyle Heights and that the teacher did not provide her much aid.

Her last movie was Manzanar from Boyle Heights. She described how during the move to Manzanar the shades were drawn, so they could not see outside. She also reported that the large majority of her family remained on the bus together (which was rare). When they arrived, she described the living quarter as poor in structure with gaps in the walls and floors. Crowded conditions with multiple generations were common.

Concerning how the author viewed her racial identity and other Japanese individuals; She reports that she was the only girl of Asian background in her classroom growing up. In the second chapter, she describes how she feared Asian faces to the point that she would have nightmares. At one point when she was placed in the class with another Asian child she experienced such anxiety that the teachers moved her weeks later. It was common for the author to be threatened by her father, that he would sell her to a Chinaman. She reports living in Terminal Island as rough, and that she was bullied. She added how many of the islanders utilized a different dialect of Japanese, that was offensive and that she could not understand. Jeanne reported that her time at Terminal Island was “hateful”, she reported they would isolate outsiders.

It appears that the writer saw herself as an “outsider” from the other Japanese families and children. She noted at the end of chapter two that she felt an increase in safety moving to Boil Heights, as she would be around less Caucasian people. I think she felt this way, as she was beginning to acknowledge that she was being discriminated against based on her race. I think the author viewed herself as more American than Japanese, and that through her experiences during moving to the camp this became evident.

During her time at Manzanar, the author lived in subpar conditions with dusty floors, drafts from holes in the walls/floors, and not ideal heating. She called their living area “the cubical”. She describes the food as altered from her normal diet, which the Americans attempted to make eatable for the families, and often the food spoiled. Meals were, before moving to the camp a large staple event to her family, during her time at Manzanar this was not possible (they stopped eating as a family). She did note after her father died, eating together began to become normal again. She described how old WWI army clothing was turned into clothing for warmth for the camp’s families. She noted that the clothing that was given to them was large, compared to their small Japanese body frames. She reported feeling like a lesser person because of this.

She reports becoming ill from the vaccines that she was provided. She describes how the utilities were often failing and that the facilities were often in poor sanitary conditions. She reports this as an “open insult… slap in the face you were powerless to challenge”. Overall, she notes that the family’s internment speeds up the process of her family falling apart after they were released. She notes she craved her mother’s attention while at the camp, and when that was not granted to her, she searched for attention from others. She reports she began to “see” adults for the first time.

She began to follow one of the religious leaders in the camp that preached the catholic faith, however she reports that her father intervened before the day of her baptism. She wrote, she had not heard of Christianity until they moved to Terminal Island. While in Manzanar she began to study the stories that the nuns taught. She especially liked listening to the story of the saints that had experienced horrific consequences. She would then imagine herself in these circumstances. Towards the end of her stay at the camp, she returned to studying the catholic faith. She describes watching an orphan participate in her first communion/ confirmation. This gave the great pride that if an orphan could look like a “queen” then she could too. Her father showed traditional cultural rejection of this. He feared that if she was baptized catholic then a Japanese boy would not marry her (as the family was originally Buddhists).

After her father was transferred to Manager, the author wrote she remembers hearing her father called an “INU”. She noted this as a cultural slur that was used towards her father. He was called an INU because the people of the camp believed that he had sold out fellow Japanese Americans. She spoke of hostile times in her family. She reported fear and described not having a place to hid from her angry father. She also describes the “December Riots”. In a response to these, the camp leaders provided each family a Christmas tree, which the author felt indifferent about, as she wrote it did not make sense to her. She wondered if this was their attempt to make the families more American.

In general, she reports playing (especially hopscotch) with other girls her age. She notes multiple times that she was young at this time. She reports that there was no official formal schooling. She learned about the Japanese national anthem and the meaning behind it “may the peaceful reign last long”, which to her had significance. She notes attending dancing and listening to bands and even having a school yearbook later on in her stay. Originally, she reported a poor education experience, the second year of their stay they were provided adequate space and supplies for school. She reports enjoying this experience and describes her teacher as kind and having a pleasant voice. Many of the educators were not Japanese, which she noted in the book.

The author belonged to the glee club and showed pride in this. While in the camp she attended ballet, where she feared the teacher’s feet and how the dance affected her body. The author did not continue dancing ballet after this. She also observed a geisha or cultural Japanese dance performed by Japanese women. Again the author didn’t understand their cultural attitudes or the different kind of dialect that the dance instructors used.

Later in her stay in the camp, she reports the ability to move around outside of the camp. It was reported that this was how they “measured our liberty”. She describes camping trips and fun journeys with other children her age. Many of the white group leaders were of religious background and volunteers. However, some of the elders in the camp also taught classes in cultural dance, which the author did not care for.

She viewed the camp as a small town with all of the details. She had resentment about what the U.S. had done to her, however, she reported that she felt that there was little they could do. She wished to return to their normal lives after the war. She describes the outside of the camp as frightening at times, and that if she was told she could leave it would cause her anxiety.

After leaving the camp she describes being “desperate to be accepted”. In her California high school, she continued a skill (baton twirling), which she had learned in the camp. She believed this was an American activity that would cause her to be more accepted. The twirling baton was an example of crossing racial barriers. The twirling baton made her feel more American. She reports a lot of hate from “the world” “as a great dark cloud…”. After leaving the camp in 1945, the author reports a feeling of indifference when arriving at her new home in California (West Coast, Long Beach). Her apartment was a part of Kabrio Homes, which housed many families such as the authors.

On her first day back to public school (6th grade) she reports being “inspected” by other children. The book describes how one of her classmates was amazed that the author could speak English. She reports she believed she would be seen as foreign, or maybe not American at all. She did face racial discrimination; however, it was different than what she expected. She decided she wanted to prove that she was not different. She tried school government, sports, academics, and the school paper. She chose her friends based on if the other person’s parents would allow her into their home, due to being Japanese.

Her friend Radine, lived in the same apartment complex and was involved in Girl Scouts. This prompted the author to wish to be in Girl Scouts. The author was not allowed to join due to her race. She did not hold this against her friend, but rather her friend’s mother who was the troop leader. In Chapter 21 she reports feeling “even” with her at times. She describes how boys were interested in her, however, they never asked her to public events. In high school, she became the first Asian majorette, which her band teacher had to seek permission from the school. This made the author aware that while she may be accepted by some, she would always be viewed differently.

She later moved to San Jose, to a smaller high school. The author wanted to run for the carnival queen. She reports that her father glared at her after he found out about her wanting to run for carnival queen. She reports she felt a certain feeling of approval from her father even though she knew that he was outwardly upset about it. When shopping for dresses it was difficult as she felt that she needed to wear strapless to fit in with her non- Japanese classmates. The author ended up wearing a high-neck dress. She later regretted running for the queen position. She reports the students voted for “someone “the author wanted to be, but that she really wasn’t. She noted that there was a reception after at a home that she was not invited to. This was when she realized “who she was” and how her culture affected her relationship with others.

The author did change her mind about being a Japanese American. She did not want to be Japanese. She reports it was “too late”, to follow her make-believe idea of what she wanted herself to be. In chapter 22 she reports she was the first to graduate college and marry a spouse outside of her race.

Before visiting she reports sometimes, she thought she made her/ family’s internment up in her mind. She reports fear from the validation that her experience in Manzanar actually occurred. She described this after she met a lady who was a photographer at Manzanar. In April 1972, the author and her family took the drive to visit Manzanar. Upon her arrival, it was difficult for her to step inside the fence. She felt she was accompanied by spirits, and reports hearing whispers from all of those who lived at the camp.

While walking around the ruined grounds of the camp she reports feeling like she was a child again (almost like she was back in time). She describes looking at pear trees, that she remembered as a child, that was odd and familiar. She describes the smells of the camp that she remembered as a child (pears, orange peels). She reports that “my own life began there” while living at Manzanar. After seeing it she no longer wanted to lose the memories of her internment. She added that the visit helped make her memories.

In the 1972’s when there was tension with Japan and American businesses, she feared that she could be imprisoned/ interned again. She did report that she was prepared for the FBI to come to her door. She wrote hearing her mother’s voice, stating that it was going to happen all over again, however the author states that she knew it wouldn’t. She wrote that she would handle it differently than her parents, with more resistance.

Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp is located in Cuba on the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. Cuba is not on American soil, but Manzanar was located on US soil in California. I found that the individual’s house in Guantanamo bae was not fully processed by the standards of the United States government. Rather the Guantanamo Military Commissions, had some reciprocity and power over these individuals, allowing for prior wartime laws to be bypassed. Manzanar was under the complete control of the United States Government and the laws that were obtained from it.

When Japanese Americans were interned during WWII, I think the U.S. government took an entire group of people and interned them due to fear of retaliation or the potentiality of nationalism. After 9/11, not all Muslims living in the U.S. were imprisoned. Only a handful of those identified by the United States as being a potential or already known threat. Whereas during WWII anymore of Japanese descent was interned. The number of individuals and the location of internment (camp vs. prison) varied. I found that at its max capacity Guantanamo Bay had over 750 men. After going to Manzanar’s historical website I noted that they processed around 10,000 men, women, and children. These two sites varied as Guantanamo Bay mainly imprisoned men, and Manzanar had entire families.

As I was researching I noted that detainees in Guantanamo Bay were allowed to practice religion. Many of their cells had arrows that pointed to Mecca for the direction of prayer. The guards showed respect to their religious practices by allowing the inmates to be in silence. Those that lived in Manzanar were also allowed religious freedom, Jeanne report studying the catholic faith, and that many church services took place while in the camp.

I found it interesting after reading the CNN article that a large majority of the inmates at Guantanamo Bay that were deemed safe enough have been transferred to other detention facilities within the United States and surrounding countries. I couldn’t find any information about detainees being released; I am assuming that this did not occur often. At Manzanar, the Japanese Americans were released shortly after the end of WWII and regained the majority of their freedoms back. In Farewell to Manzanar, it did mention that Jeanne’s father was moved from a camp near the Dakotas to Manzanar and was reunited with his family. Ultimately, after the end of the war, those in Manzanar were released. However, Guantanamo Bay continues to hold many prisoners many years after 9/11 and the war on terror.

I feel like overall while at Manzanar the United States government attempted to maintain a sense of order and security. The individuals housed in the camp were still allowed to participate in activities of daily life. However Guantanamo Bay appears to be more of a prison in the sense that many of the men housed there are convicted of acts of terrorism. It appears that the treatment of those a Guantanamo Bay is carried out more harshly and secure. While both groups of camps house potentially dangerous individuals Guantanamo Bay detention camp had a more serious sub-group of men.


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