Tag Archives: Japanese-american experience

They Called Us Enemy

Created by: George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, Harmony Becker

For ages: YA-Middle and High School

Language: English, some Japanese. 

Topics Covered: Japanese Internment, Historical Figures, Historical Events, WWII, Growing Up, LGBTQ, Japanese-American Experience, Own Voices, Graphic Novel. 

Summary: This is an incredible graphic novel, telling of historical events that are rarely taught in schools. Deciding to post it today, February 19th, acknowledges a day that Japanese Americans call Remembrance Day, commemorating the passage of Executive Order 9066.  This executive order decreed that “excluded persons” could be removed from active military zones (the entirety of the west coast) and interned elsewhere.  While 9066 never said specifically what types of people were excluded, this became the basis for the removal of Japanese and Japanese Americans into camps for the next several years.  National Treasure George Takei and his family were just 5 of the 120,000 individuals relocated (several times) into internment camps.

George and his family were shuttled around for several years, his father engaging in community-building work and becoming elected barrack manager several times.  Upon release, the family moved back to Los Angeles and rebuilt their life.  The graphic novel also covers George growing up and becoming an actor, including emotional scenes where he visits the house of the president that was a proponent of the camps in the first place.

They Called Us Enemy is woven together with George’s memories, discussions with his father when he was a teen, and a Ted Talk.  This memoir describes events as perceived by a child, thinking they were going on vacation, as well as the political climate at the time of WWII and life in the camps.  The United States is no stranger to committing atrocities against people it fears.  Having a personal account of what happened to citizens in recent years gives a look into what can still happen today, if control over the democratic process is not regained by citizens.  We highly recommend this book, it’s crucial that young people today learn about what can happen when fear takes over and human rights are forgotten.

About the Creators:

249949f3-4100-4acc-8e36-67150780c4b1._CR266,0,1059,1059_PT0_SX300__George Takei is known worldwide for playing Hikaru Sulu on Star Trek: The Original Series. But Takei’s story goes where few have gone before. After a childhood spent in Japanese American internment camps during WWII, he has become a leading figure in the fight for social justice and LGBTQ rights. Mashable named him the most influential person on Facebook, with 10.4 million likes and 2.8 million Twitter followers.

Justin Eisinger is Editorial Director at IDW, with over twelve years in graphic storytelling. He seeks to create engaging, impactful non-fiction stories.

Steven Scott has worked in comics since 2010, and has written for Archie, Arcana Studios, and Heavy Metal, among others.

Artist Harmony Becker has created Himawari Share, Love Potion, and Anemone and Catharus. Part of a multicultural family, she has lived in South Korea and Japan.

My First Book of Japanese Words

Written by: Michelle Haney Brown

Illustrated by: Aya Padrón

For ages: 4 years and up

Language: English & Japanese

Topics Covered: Bilingualism, Japanese Culture & Traditions, Literacy, Global Community.

Summary: This alphabetical rhyming book provides multiple languages and a short poem on each page, and is jam packed with information about literacy, culture, and language!  The book explains how some letters that are used in English don’t even exist in the Japanese alphabet, and how the letters are not formed the same way either.  There is an Author’s Preface and pronunciation guide in the beginning, as well as cultural facts about Japan scattered throughout the pages.

The illustrations are absolutely adorable and have a watercolor feel to them.  They do a great job showing life in the unnamed main character’s life, and demonstrate how many kids all over the world live a relatively similar life but there are special parts of Japan that are different than the life of most American kids.

The preface is very detailed and explains the different languages and alphabets being used in the book.  In the book there is English, Kanji, Kana, and Romaji which is a Romanized form of writing in Japanese.  Overall, this is a fabulous book to begin teaching a different language to young children!

Reflection Questions:

  • What letter does you name begin with?  Is that letter in the Japanese word, or is it one of the tricky ones that doesn’t exist?
  • What was unique about the Japanese student’s life that you don’t do?
  • What do you think you do everyday that isn’t pictured in the book?
  • Do you speak any other languages?  What about any of your family members?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Pick your favorite letter in the alphabet and see how many different languages you can use to list all the words you know!  If everyone in the class picks a different letter, you can make a banner to hang around the room with tons of different languages represented.
  • Pick up some more books on Japanese from the library, and keep learning!
  • Depending on the ages of the students and listeners, you can use this as a learning moment and introduce the Japanese Internment that took place in America during WWII.  Artist Ruth Asawa was one of these individuals, as well as actor George Takei.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Both of these humans were pretty hard to track down online!  The information provided was found on Amazon.

michelleMichelle Haney Brown is passionate about promoting intercultural awareness, especially by means of providing insight about the Japanese culture, as compared to the American. Currently, she incorporates cross-cultural lessons and fun into teaching Japanese language and culture.

In preschool, Michelle befriended an elderly German couple in the neighborhood whom no one else could understand. In high school, her best friend was an immigrant from Russia and not the typical student at a Houston suburban (and rather cowboy) high school. Michelle went on to study abroad for a year in a Japanese high school and live with a Japanese family. She fell in love with not only the Japanese culture and language but also with the foil that the whole experience provided to her cultural lenses and way of thinking. In a nutshell, it gave her perspective on her own culture and way of thinking.  Michelle says of her work “If I can bring to life the world for youngsters so that they feel that the world is is friendly, fun, and exciting, I will have accomplished my calling.”

ayaAya is an illustrator inspired by science, nature, and imaginary worlds.
Her work is also influenced by East Asian culture and art — especially that of Korea, where she used to live.