Thoughts on Gasa Gasa Girl Goes To Camp

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.

4 thoughts on “Thoughts on Gasa Gasa Girl Goes To Camp

  1. I also found the Japanese-American soldiers working for the WRA in the internment camps to be an interesting population. Yuriko and her mother were disgusted by what they characterized as their traitorous behavior, labeling them as “stupid dogs” and “stupid spies.” This showed how, despite being in America, they were still connected to their Japanese roots. There was an expectation in the community for Japanese people to have solidarity with one another in America as an oppressed minority. They could not integrate into American society; they were barred from citizenship and demonized as enemies to the nation. Therefore, they needed to stick together as a community to survive. So, seeing the Japanese-American soldiers working on the side of the oppressor, and even acting more harshly towards the prisoners than their white counterparts, ignited a deep sense of betrayal in the Japanese prisoners.

  2. I too found this book especially interesting, but I felt it was more powerful with the combination of narrative and thematically divided narratives expressed, which I also contextualized from the collection of Poetry from Chinese immigrants on Angel Island, holding some similarities, but then we see her narratives comparatively reflected through imagery of paintings and photos which embody her messages so well!
    I took an interest in the hiring of Japanese guards to help sanction internment within the camps too! I was very disappointed when Lily, even as a child, provided so little context on their role or any converse effects. If I recall correctly, this was a move enforced closer to the end of the war and the dismantling of camps, but I feel as though their roles were actually very quintessential rather than precarious to the relocation centers. When Lily noticed them, is was a double take reminder for her that this is still outside life beyond the camp, but his race was masks by his uniform and she was quick to normalize him by his objective, more powerful position, which her parents already deem her to be weary of. Perhaps these Japanese guards were recruited to strategically prepare for the dismantling of the camps? Or to secure them and organize them better before such?

    I would definitely argue the treatment by the father you mention was out of his control and instead more engraved within his traumatic experience, yes, at home like you suggest, but internment and his soul-sucking confinement likely reinforced his degrading behavior, reflecting his shameful feelings personally.

  3. I enjoyed the artwork too, I didn’t know that she started painting at 65 but it seems like her time doing stained glass influenced her artwork. The pieces themselves definitely change the experience of the book because of the visual and emotional aspect that is emphasized with the pieces.
    I also noted how the book brings up a lot of gender role concepts that we have explored in previous lectures. The way that gender roles affect how Yuriko navigates her life, in general, is noticeable throughout the book. I didn’t particularly like how the father treated Yuriko and her mother either, but I understand how his actions have been affected by both his previous relationships and gender roles. Much like Breadgivers, we see a lot of how women adapt to a society that is not designed for them to work in especially with Yuriko’s mom.

  4. I also agree that this was one of my favorite readings so far! I took photography throughout high school, so I understand and appreciate the value that photographs bring to the story. When you talked about their culture, it reminded me how I emphasized the difference in culture between Lily and her parents’ generation.

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