Stolen Voices: Young People's War Diaries, from World War I to Iraqby Zlata Filipovic
From the author of the international bestseller Zlata’s Diary comes a haunting testament to how war’s brutality affects the lives of young people
Zlata Filipovic’s diary of her harrowing war experiences in the Balkans, published in 1993, made her a globally recognized spokesperson for children affected by military conflict. In/b>/i>
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From the author of the international bestseller Zlata’s Diary comes a haunting testament to how war’s brutality affects the lives of young people
Zlata Filipovic’s diary of her harrowing war experiences in the Balkans, published in 1993, made her a globally recognized spokesperson for children affected by military conflict. In Stolen Voices, she and co-editor Melanie Challenger have gathered fifteen diaries of young people coping with war, from World War I to the struggle in Iraq that continues today. Profoundly affecting testimonies of shattered youth and the gritty particulars of war in the tradition of Anne Frank, this extraordinary collection— the first of its kind—is sure to leave a lasting impression on young and old readers alike.
- Penguin Publishing Group
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- 18 Years
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(Second World War, USA)
‘I shall remember that day I was evacuated for the rest of my life…’
One of the United States’ significant national defence actions during the Second World War was the mass evacuation of persons of Japanese ancestry from California, the western regions of Oregon and Washington, and southern Arizona. Persons of Japanese descent were also removed from Alaska, and plans were laid down for transfer of Japanese persons from Hawaii to the mainland. This policy was a reaction to the aggressive bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces on 7th December, 1941. It was also in part a precaution taken by the government, who feared that the Japanese population living in America could prove a threat to national security as the U.S. Army planned its retaliation. In an official statement from the Department of Justice, Japanese immigrants were referred to as ‘dangerous persons’. In some cases, individuals were given just forty-eight hours to leave their homes. By 1943, all internees above the age of seventeen were required to sign a loyalty pact which stated the following:
- Are you willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States on combat duty wherever ordered?
- Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States of America and faithfully defend the United States from any or all attack by foreign or domestic forces and forswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor, to any other foreign government, power or organization?
Born in 1925, Stanley Hayami, a Japanese-American teenager from California, was taken from his home and placed in Heart Mountain internment camp. Heart Mountain opened on August 12, 1942, and closed on November 10, 1945. At its height, the population was over ten thousand – it is estimated that up to 120,000 Japanese Americans were interned during the Second World War across the United States. Most of the prisoners in Heart Mountain came from the Los Angeles area and Central Washington. In July, 1944, 63 prisoners who had resisted the draft were convicted and sentenced to 3 years in prison. The camp was made up of 468 buildings, divided into twenty blocks. Each block had two laundry-toilet buildings. Each building had six rooms, which were small and sparsely furnished. Military police were stationed in nine guard towers, equipped with search lights, and surrounded by barbed wire fencing around the camp. It was not unheard of for individuals to die in the camps, especially those in the desert regions, due to inadequate medical attention. Many detention-center survivors admitted that their livelihoods had been destroyed to an extent that they could not fully recover after release.
Despite the devastating atomic bomb attacks by U.S. forces on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, Japanese insurgence was relatively minimal. Nevertheless, the paranoia was such that the Japanese earned the nickname, ‘The Yellow Peril’. It took nearly fifty years for Congress to pass the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which finally acknowledged that “a grave injustice was done.” Each victim of internment was to be paid $20,000 in reparations.
8 December 1942
Today, last year, I went to school excited, scared (tho’ I had no reason to be) and sort of embarrassed. When I went to class everyone was talking about it and I felt a little conspicuous as if everyone was looking at me. The rest of the kids said hello to me as usual and all tried to stay off the topic of war. However I didn’t feel much like talking about anything that day. All during English class my English teacher had the news broadcast on. One report was from Manila and was cut short as Jap. planes began flying over. When I got home I did little else except listening to news reports.
Today I took my physical exam. Oh no I think he’s dead…
14 December 1942
Last Monday the Kibei and Issei rioted at Manzanar. They were celebrating Pearl Harbor, and some loyal American soldiers tried to stop them and they killed one and injured several others. Among those who were injured and had to be taken away for their own safety was Tod Ujero. Tod lived over the road from us at San Gabriel and was our competitor. The internal police could do nothing so the military police were summoned into camp. The rioters charged the nips with rocks, so they threw tear gas bombs. When this didn’t work, they shot at the rioters and wounded a few. Now Manzanar is under martial law. During the riot, in which there was a mob of about 4000, one group tried to haul down the ‘Stars and Stripes’ but failed as fountain boy scouts stood guard with rocks and repulsed them.
I hope nothing like that ever happens around here. Now the politicians and such are starting again in trying to take the Jap. American’s citizenship away and make things more strict in camp. Heck, those guys should remember that over half are loyal Americans and the rest are Kibei or Issei. I don’t see why us innocent and good guys should have to pay for stuff that the Japanese do. Things like what happened at Manzanar make all of us look like bad saboteurs when just a minority are the ones causing trouble. Darn it, anyhow us loyal Jap. Americans have no chance. When we’re outside people look at us suspiciously and think we’re spies. Now that we’re in camp the Japs look at us and say we‘re bad cause we still love America. And now the people outside want to take our citizenship away from us as if we’re the bad ones, when it’s really the Kibei and Issei. If they take our citizenship away from us, we’ll be people without a country, ‘cause, gee whiz! who in the hell wants a Japanese citizenship? I wouldn’t go there for nothin’! I guess if they take away our citizenship, I’ll just have to melt off to some island and start my own country.
PS. Tonite we had a twenty-minute blackout.
1 January 1943
Well today is the first day of the year nineteen hundred and forty- two three. I wonder what it has in store for me?
Wonder what it has in store for everybody?
Wonder where I’ll be next year?
Wonder when the war will end?
Last year, today, I said I hoped that the war would end in a year. Well it didn’t but this year I say again “I hope the war ends this year, but definitely.”
Another thing is I hope I’m out of here and a free man by ‘44.
Here are a few New Year’s resolutions I hope I can live up to:
- I resolve to be more tolerant
- I resolve to be more understanding of others and more appreciative
This goes hand in hand with no. 1. Great men are great because they understand people better. They are great because they are not narrow-minded. One of the things a person wants most is appreciation - so I want to give people as much appreciation as possible.
- I resolve to study as hard as I can and learn as much as I can
So that when I am a man I won’t be a dumbbell.
- I resolve to help ma and pa more
- I resolve not to abandon any high ambitions Prediction: war will end between 1943-44, about one and a half years more.
Today in the morning I played cards and then in the afternoon, I listened to football games. Well the rose bowl game came out as I expected but not as I hoped. Most people said the Georgia would smother the U.C.L.I. but I said it would be pretty close. U.C.L.I held Georgia scoreless for three quarters, but Georgia piled it on in the last and won 9-0. I hoped U.C.L.A would win, which they didn’t however.
Last year at this time I was at home in San Gabriel, Calif. and now I am here in an evacuation camp in Heart Mountain, Wyo. Gosh a lot happened last year. In the spring we had to work hard to sell out our stock. In Easter we quit, handed over the nursery to Mr Dailey. We moved to Los Angeles for a month until evacuation to Pomono A. Center. After Pomono we boarded a train, and after about three and a half days of travelling through Nevada, Utah and Colorado, we reached this camp in Wyoming. And here I am today, hoping that next year at this time, I’ll be home or somewhere else outside of camp.
14 May 1943
Today marks the end of one year in camp for me. I shall remember that day I was evacuated for the rest of my life. I shall remember how I stood on the corner of Garvey and Atlantic with a thousand others - then the busses came and whisked us off to camp. I shall remember the lump that came into my throat as the bus went down the street, and when some of the people on the sidewalks and Mexicans in the fields waved at us.
I shall remember the barbed wire, the armed guards, the towers, the dust, the visitors, the food lines, the typhoid shots, my busboy job, my messenger job, the crowded barracks, the nightly talent shows, the friends I made, my Judo lessons, bed count, and finally my leaving on the train to here.
I shall remember the train ride, the sleepless nights, the deserts, the mountains, the beautiful scenery.
Now that I am here, I think of the cold weather I have been thru, the dust storms and the rest of my hardships. But I will also remember all the friends I made here, the tough school I went to, and I feel no bitterness to the government for the evacuation - though I still feel that it wasn’t right.
31 January 1944
New lease on life!
Man do I feel swell! ‘Member I thought I had TB or something, well I don’t. Dr. Robbins looked my x-rays over and told me there’s nothing wrong with my lungs. So I guess I’ll go on to college! or the army.
And I made up my mind on something else, too - I’m going into the artist-writer field. And I’m going to be the best artist in the world (Even if my IQ is low) and another thing, after I graduate from college I’m going to bum my way around the world. So the world better watch out. Hayami is going to the top!
I’d better start building up my body, though. I want it to come with me.
Just a little while ago, I walked up to the hospital - I was jittery and nervous as hell. By the time I got to the hospital, though, I didn’t feel as bad - I tried not to think about it - I felt that this might be the most unhappiest day or the happiest of my life - it turned out to be the most happiest! Dr. Robbins, smoking a long black cigar, said, “Nothing there my boy”, as he read my x-ray. “You can sing for joy.” He extended his hand, but I was so stupefied and so sure that I had TB that I forgot to shake it. In fact I walked about a block back home before it sunk in. Then I looked around - beautiful day isn’t it! - sun shining down on the bright white snow, children yelling and playing - all happiness - no worries! - the future ahead of me!
God has smiled down on me. I thought maybe I’m not worth it. I’m determined to make myself worth it.
24 March 1944 10.05pm.
Hawaiian guitars playing
Warm summer nights
Creak of the screen door
Cars in the street not far
Green plants and shrubbery
Eucalyptus trees sighing
and rustling in a cooling breeze
Brothers, sisters and ma and pa’s
laughter, scolding, and just plain nothing
These are the thoughts I have tonight.
26 March 1944
Last night I finished reading about the life of a great Negro, George Washington Carver. The story of his life is bound to influence greatly my own.
For one thing I no longer felt satisfied with my choice of becoming a book illustrator and taking art and literature in college. No, after I read that book I regained my former love for nature and science and felt my life would be wasted, so far as being of service to mankind.
My own feelings and interests and loves fell in remarkably close with Carver’s. For one thing, we both love nature; secondly, he and I both love, could and can do creative art work; third, we both like science; fourth, he too was handicapped by racial prejudice only more so than I; fifth, neither of us wanted to make a fortune. (I don’t base success on how much money a person has. I want to use money as a means but not an end in itself.) Sixth, he and I in the most part have no desire for fame. I believe fame comes to those worthy of it. Not to those who go in search of it. The only difference between Carver and me is that Carver had brains. Carver was also excellent in music, and that Carver believed firmly in God, heart, mind, and soul. (I want to believe in God, I hold him dear in my heart, but doggone it, my mind won’t. I pray to God that he will make my mind believe in God also.)
Finally, Carver had to make a decision over his love for art and his love for nature and science. He chose nature and science because he said “I can help my race better through agriculture.”
I too have felt that I should serve God and mankind (had something of that sort in my mind on January 31st of 1944 - last sentence). I too feel that life should have a lofty purpose and reading that book convinced me of this. Wasn’t it Edward Bok’s mother who said “Edward leave this earth a little more pleasant, a little more beautiful because you have been in it.”? And that’s just what I’m thinking when I say I want to leave the earth a little more richer than the fertiliser in my body will return it. Come to think of it, my body is only returning what it took out, in other words, I should leave some pay for the interest too.
I want my life to be constructive not destructive.
20 August 1944
Today is a beautiful morning. Up and down our barracks, I can hear kids playing, doors opening and closing. Radios speaking in the barracks across from me. Japanese records playing at the back of me. Pop’s over at the shogi room I guess - he’s supposed to work out this morning with the dumbbells he received two weeks ago from York. Walt’s still in bed sleeping, he went to our block social last night.
Gee, I some wish I could dance…
I guess it’s like everything else - you’ve got to drive yourself and learn - no use sitting and wishing. Mom is probably washing clothes. I wonder how Grace is over in New York - haven’t seen her now for a year, she’s taking psychology and math at Hunter College. Her birthday is next week - good thing I sent her a present already.
I guess Frank’s over at that picnic at Shelby today.
Well, the reason I’m writing again after such a long lapse is because around next Tuesday I’m going to go to active duty. Probably this shall be the last time I will write in this book in a long time. Perhaps I should also go over some of the news that has happened to me over the past three months. Well France has been invaded and the allies are now close to Paris. Saipan Island in the South Pacific has been taken with the result that Premier Tojo and his entire staff was forced to quit. Hitler has been almost killed. In Italy the Japanese Americans are doing a wonderful job. The 100th is the most decorated outfit in the army. Willie wrote from some place in Italy. Hasn’t seen action yet. Volunteers from our camp have already met their death.
Heart Mountain has been a dead place - a wonderfully live place too. Dust has blown through it and snow storms too. Someday, from a foreign battlefield, I shall remember it with homesickness. Mother, father, brother, sister, friends, mess halls, movie theatres, ice skating, swimming, school, weightlifting - all shall try to well up in my throat at once.
Stanley left Heart Mountain in June 1944 to join the U.S. Army. He never lost his faith in America and remained defiantly patriotic to the last. He wrote the final extract of his diary while awaiting his first assignment in his U.S. barracks. He was killed in combat in northern Italy on April 23, 1945, while trying to help a fellow soldier. He was nineteen years old.
What People are saying about this
One of Zlata’s gifts lies in throwing a human light on intolerable events. (San Francisco Chronicle)
Meet the Author
Zlata Filipovic wrote her diary between September 1991 and October 1993. Following its publication, she was awarded the Special Child of Courage Award by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. She and her family left Sarajevo in December of 1993, and used the proceeds from the book to launch a charity for child victims of the Bosnian war.
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Stolen Voices connects the thoughts and feelings of young people who lived during wartime, whether as civilians or soldiers, in a way that displays how common themes have spanned over decades. In the diaries of civilians, the innocence of childhood is especially prevalent. The young people, regardless of the time period, question why war is happening, why it is affecting them, and whether or not they will survive it. They cannot fully comprehend what is happening and often face frustration and fear. Through the civilian diaries, one can relate to the young people and the way everyday things are changing around them. One can try to imagine how one would feel and react if one was thrown into such a situation. The soldiers' diaries are also very interesting to read. They are so matter-of-fact about war and death, it is almost unnerving. They often reminisce on their homes and lives before the war, and make plans for what they will do when they get out. It becomes clear after reading the diaries that war is war, regardless of the time or place. The images inserted in the middle of the book are a reminder to the reader that the diaries were actually written down on paper by a real person who really lived the events they describe. It is unreal to see their photos and actual pages from the diaries. It makes one wonder how many diaries like these, how many stories like these, have gone undiscovered or unnoticed. It makes one acutely aware of how many innocent, ordinary people have been and are being affected by war. The diaries present many affects of war that one might not think of right away, like visiting cemeteries to put wreaths on graves or not having enough water. Overall, this book is a good choice if one does not have much time to read, because one can concentrate on a single diary at a time.
My seventh-grade daughter and I read this collection of war diaries from World War I to Iraq for our book club. We read it aloud together, and I¿m glad we did. It gave us a chance to talk about the historical times each of the wars was set in and discuss the difficulties each of the diarists experienced. Particularly interesting were the views expressed by young people writing in Israel, Palestine and Iraq, since those conflicts are current events. During our group discussion we sat in a circle and each of the girls and moms talked about the diary that lingered in their minds the most. Not surprisingly many of us chose Inge, a Jewish girl sent from Austria with her sister to stay with an English family during World War II. Since the girls are the same age Inge was when she was writing, the anguish she experienced at leaving her parents and her home resonated particularly with us. I worried that the subject matter would be too intense for middle school girls, because some of the descriptions are particularly strong. And not all the diarists survive. But during our discussion it was quite clear that the girls had learned a lot from reading the book, and they highly recommended it for other girls their age. In fact, one of our members had not read Stolen Voices before our meeting, but said she couldn¿t wait to start after hearing the rest of us talk about it. I think Stolen Voices is an important book for people of all ages, but it¿s especially important for the young. And I think it¿s a great book to read with a group. An excerpt from the diary of Zlata Filipovic, one of the editors, is also included in the collection. A line from one of her entries sums up the sentiment that was a common thread among many of the diarists, ¿I simply don¿t understand it. Of course, I¿m `young¿ and politics are conducted by `grown-ups.¿ But I think we `young¿ would do it better. We certainly wouldn¿t have chosen war¿.¿