To start, this has been one of my favorite readings so far. For some reason, I thought I wouldn’t like (probably because the bookstore forced me to buy it new) but I loved the art the author included, and the way she wrote her story. After finishing, I looked up the author to find out she went to the New England Conservatory of Music, learned to make stained glass, and then started painting at age 65.
The first thing that stuck out to me was that since photography was forbidden in the camps unless it was by the WRA, Yuriko didn’t have any photos of herself between the ages of 10 and 14. Obviously, that’s a very transitional period and the period when most people are in middle school and would probably prefer to not have pictures of themselves, but the idea of there being no family photos for 4 years was extremely saddening to me. Another concept introduced in the very beginning of the book was the idea of Japanese-American police, hired by the WRA. This seemed strange to me, and I wondered what those interactions were like since they had a tiny amount of power over others in the camp and held a precarious position between the white administration and the Japanese internees. Since we compared the internment camps to the Holocaust, I kept coming back to the comparison while reading and it’s very strange to think about the concept of Jewish police in European concentration camps.
One of the aspects this book has in common with the other primary sources we’ve read is the starkness of the gender roles presented. Japanese society, especially in the 19th and early 20th century, seems very strictly divided by gender which is also very clearly seen in Bread Givers and the German letters. I thought it was interesting that Yuriko’s parents’ marriage was arranged, because that also seems to be a common occurrence among immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Finally, I thought Yuriko’s father’s behavior towards Yuriko and mother pretty sad, but I think it can definitely be traced back to the way he was treated by his mother, and it clearly affected his relationships with the women in his life.
One of the more positive aspects of camp life described by Yuriko was the fact that the internees still got to keep their culture and practice their culture – which was not the case with Jews during the Holocaust or Native Americans in the late 19th and early to mid 20th centuries, where each group was completely and purposefully stripped of their cultures. A couple examples of this are the New Years’ Celebrations (the mochi making!), the presence of Buddhist churches, and the Obon festival described near the end of the book.