Review of They Called Us Enemy

They Called Us Enemy
by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, and Steven Scott; illus. by Harmony Becker
Middle School, High School    Top Shelf    208 pp.
9/19    Paper ed. 978-1-60309-450-4    $19.99
 
From the publisher of the March trilogy (March, rev. 1/14, and sequels), co-written by civil rights leader and U.S. Congress member John Lewis, comes another exemplary comic-style memoir by and about a notable American. Takei — an author and activist, but most famously an actor on the original Star Trek television show — crafts his own childhood memoir about his years spent in America’s Japanese internment camps of World War II. As a five-year-old, he is relocated with his parents and younger brother and sister from their home in Los Angeles to the easternmost camp in Rohwer, Arkansas. Then later, when his parents answer negatively to a pair of survey questions about military service and swearing allegiance, they are labeled no-nos and sent back to California to Tule Lake, the “most notorious, the most cruel, and by far the largest of the ten camps.” Through all the unjust, degrading treatment they suffer, young George and his family maintain their resiliency, dignity, and humanity. And the story’s denouement clearly demonstrates that this adversity profoundly shaped his future. Takei seamlessly blends his naive, limited childhood perspective with the wisdom and reflection of adulthood, with scenes from a 2014 TED talk by the author in Kyoto, Japan, and his 2017 speech at the FDR Museum and Presidential Library interspersed throughout. Becker’s emotive black-and-white panel illustrations are effective in their subtle nuances, with occasional nods to manga and comic pop art.
 
From the September/October 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Jonathan Hunt
Jonathan Hunt is the coordinator of library media services at the San Diego County Office of Education.

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