‘Gasa Gasa Girl Goes to Camp: A Nisei Youth Behind A World War II Fence’ by Lily Yuriko Nakai Harvey is a memoir describing Yuriko’s time in Japanese internment and the two camps she stayed in. The book provided a more personal perspective on what Japanese internment was like, and it was a perspective that I hadn’t read a lot of before since most discussions on Japanese internment in school was broader. The book shows a lot of the difficulties that Japanese people faced when in the camps and how poor the conditions of the camp were. I was surprised to read how much they were treated like actual prisoners and how willing soldiers were to shoot people that had done nothing wrong.
Like Breadgivers, this book provides a uniquely female perspective on not only life in the camps but Japanese culture. Throughout the book, we see how much Yuriko’s mother struggles to help her family and ensure that both of her children have more opportunities. The book also implies quite a lot of patriarchal concepts like when Yuriko talks about how only her brother went on trips with their father or how Yuriko is expected to act a certain way. I found myself not liking the father very much, while he did work to uphold the family, it didn’t seem like he cared as much for his family or at least didn’t show it as much.
The optimism at the beginning of the book contrasted heavily with the rest of the book and the grim reality of these people. It expresses a lot of the hardships that people faced in internment and while this was written from the perspective of a young child the moments where the adults express their troubles convey the struggle that they. This is evident in the part where Yuriko and her mother talk about America and how her mother breaks down at the reality of their situation. I found it interesting how the artwork of the book went along with certain parts of the memoir and further demonstrated the emotional core of these moments.
Yuriko did provide a uniquely female perspective to how the story of internment played out. She described how she was angry that her dad favored her brother, and wanted nothing more than his attention and affection throughout her life. She even goes as far as listing one of the few times she felt close to her dad as when she had an accident and he tended to her until she recovered. She retrospectively contemplated whether or not she should have purposely caused more accidents just to receive more of he father’s attention. Their dynamic was only gravely worsened by internment. He did not take it well at all, and, as Yuriko described, he quickly retreated into a shell of his former self. He snuck off without her or her family knowing when or where he left, and his alcoholism became more severe. While she did feel sorry for her father, she also slightly resented him for largely abandoning the family and leaving her mother to care for them all.