When Can We Go Back to America? Voices of Japanese American Incarceration during WWII

English & Japanese

YA

Japanese Internment/Incarceration

History

Nonfiction

Racism

Oppression

Personal Narrative

Susan H. Kamei

summary

Meticulously researched and fastidiously detailed personal narration fill this historic book. Susan Kamei has done a marvelous job in describing the intricacies of the political events and racism that led to the incarceration of the Japanese American population following the Pearl Harbor bombing.

Kamei includes a lengthy contributor biography section and has painstakingly compiled the facilities that survivors were held in (let’s not mince words, they were concentration camps). It’s clear when reading that this is the cause Kamei feels most passionate about, spreading knowledge and awareness to this piece of American history.

Reading through the narration by survivors that describe every painstaking moment in the camps, the readers hears the hope that this was temporary and the subsequent betrayal of the government when it became clear that they were lying. For those of us that were never taught about this aspect of WWII (I certainly wasn’t, and didn’t learn about it until I was college-age) it’s a sharp awakening to see how much racism played into the decisions to remove Japanese Americans from their homes along California coast, where they had extremely successful farms. White folks wanted this land, and they used to government to steal it (again).

While it’s nearly impossible to have a succinct review of this meticulous and in-depth collection of an under-represented perspective on history, it’s extremely crucial that we start to integrate more Japanese American history into school curriculums. I learned so much while reading, and the seamless integration of quotes from survivors makes for a text that sticks with you long after finishing.

This book was kindly sent by Simon & Schuster, but all opinions are my own. It will be out on September 7th!

Susan H. Kamei

SUSAN H. KAMEI is the granddaughter of Japanese immigrants. Her maternal grandparents were part of the Japanese classical music community in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo, and her paternal grandparents were vegetable farmers in Orange County.

During World War II, her mother and her parents were incarcerated at the Santa Anita Assembly Center in Arcadia, California and at the War Relocation Authority camp in Heart Mountain, Wyoming. Her father, together with his grandparents, parents, and siblings, were detained at the WRA camp known as Poston II in Arizona.

Susan graduated from the University of California, Irvine with B.A. degrees in Russian and Linguistics, summa cum laude, and received her J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center, where she was an editor of the Georgetown law journal Law and Policy in International Business

From the time she was in law school in Washington, DC and while she practiced corporate law, Susan was a member of the legislative strategy team for the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) in the successful passage of federal legislation that provided redress to Japanese Americans for their wartime incarceration. She has been recognized for her service in the redress campaign, which included volunteering as National Deputy Legal Counsel for the JACL Legislative Education Committee.

She now teaches undergraduate students at the University of Southern California (USC) about the constitutional, historical, and political issues of the Japanese American incarceration and the importance of those issues today. She also serves as the managing director of the USC Spatial Sciences Institute.

For her contributions to the USC community and for enriching the educations of students of color and LGBTQ students, she received the 2018 USC Undergraduate Student Government Community Achievement Award. She also was recognized for her leadership and service in business, academia, and the community with the “Woman of Courage” Award in 2000 from the Friends of the Los Angeles City Commission on the Status of Women.


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