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Farewell to Manzanar

Farewell to Manzanar

3.6 99
by Jeanne Houston, James D. Houston

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Jeanne Wakatsuki was seven years old in 1942 when her family was uprooted from their home and sent to live at Manzanar internment camp—with 10,000 other Japanese Americans. Along with searchlight towers and armed guards, Manzanar ludicrously featured cheerleaders, Boy Scouts, sock hops, baton twirling lessons and a dance band called the Jive Bombers who would


Jeanne Wakatsuki was seven years old in 1942 when her family was uprooted from their home and sent to live at Manzanar internment camp—with 10,000 other Japanese Americans. Along with searchlight towers and armed guards, Manzanar ludicrously featured cheerleaders, Boy Scouts, sock hops, baton twirling lessons and a dance band called the Jive Bombers who would play any popular song except the  nation's #1 hit: "Don't Fence Me In."

Farewell to Manzanar is the true story of one spirited Japanese-American family's attempt to survive the indignities of forced detention . . . and of a native-born American child who discovered what it was like to grow up behind barbed wire in the United States.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An extraordinary episode in American history." - Library Journal

From the Paperback edition.

Children's Literature
In this timely reissue of a 1973 edition, Ms. Houston recalls her childhood experience of being interred with her family at Manzanar, a Japanese internment camp. Ms. Houston's parents and extended family were Issei, the Japanese word for first generation Japanese-Americans. Many Issei had settled in the coastal areas of California, just as her parents did. They prospered there, only to have it all taken away after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Suddenly, all Japanese were suspect, and a presidential order demanded that they all be removed from their homes and sent to hastily prepared camps. Jeanne, her mother, father, brothers and sister were sent to Manzanar, a camp near the high Sierra Mountains in California. 23 short chapters recall what her family had to endure both physically and emotionally. Only 9 years old at the time, Jeanne witnessed what this social and cultural disruption did to her family, especially to her father. A patriarch in the true sense of the word, he suffered immeasurably from the humiliation of losing his status as head of the family. Jeanne's descriptions of camp life relate the good and the bad of communal living. Once envisioned as a memoir for her extended family, this story has been reissued in the hopes that the more recent tragedy of 9/11 would not result in the same fears and misjudgments that a similar event like Pearl Harbor precipitated. Seeing the events through the recollections of a young child makes for perfect reading as parents or teachers seek ways to assist young people find appropriate avenues to allay fears and anxieties and to foster understanding of other cultures. 2002 (orig. 1973), Houghton Mifflin,
— Meredith Kiger

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

What Is Pearl Harbor?

On that first weekend in December there must have been twenty or twenty-five boats getting ready to leave. I had just turned seven. I remember it was Sunday because I was out of school, which meant I could go down to the wharf and watch. In those days — 1941 — there was no smog around Long Beach. The water was clean, the sky a sharp Sunday blue, with all the engines of that white sardine fleet puttering up into it, and a lot of yelling, especially around Papa’s boat. Papa loved to give orders. He had attended military school in Japan until the age of seventeen, and part of him never got over that. My oldest brothers, Bill and Woody, were his crew. They would have to check the nets again, and check the fuel tanks again, and run back to the grocery store for some more cigarettes, and then somehow everything had been done, and they were easing away from the wharf, joining the line of boats heading out past the lighthouse, into the harbor.

Papa’s boat was called The Nereid — long, white low-slung, with a foredeck wheel cabin. He had another smaller boat, called The Waka (a short version of our name), which he kept in Santa Monica, where we lived. But The Nereid was his pride. It was worth about $25,000 before the war, and the way he stood in the cabin steering toward open water you would think the whole fleet was under his command. Papa had a mustache then. He wore knee-high rubber boots, a rust-colored turtleneck Mama had knitted him, and a black skipper’s hat. He liked to hear himself called “Skipper.”

Through one of the big canneries he had made a deal to pay for The Nereid with percentages of each catch, and he was anxious to get it paid off. He didn’t much like working for someone else if he could help it. A lot of fishermen around San Pedro Harbor had similar contracts with the canneries. In typical Japanese fashion, they all wanted to be independent commercial fisherman, yet they almost always fished together. They would take off from Terminal Island, help each other find the schools of sardine, share nets and radio equipment — competing and cooperating at the same time.

You never knew how long they’d be gone, a couple of days, sometimes a week, sometimes a month, depending on the fish. From the wharf we waved good-bye — my mother, Bill’s wife, Woody’s wife, Chizu, and me. We yelled at them to have a good trip, and after they were out of earshot and the sea had swallowed their engine noises, we kept waving. Then we just stood there with the other women, watching. It was a kind of duty, perhaps a way of adding a little good luck to the voyage, or warding off the bad. It was also marvelously warm, almost summery, the way December days can be sometimes in southern California. When the boats came back, the women who lived on Terminal Island would be rushing to the canneries. But for the moment there wasn’t much else to do. We watched until the boats became a row of tiny white gulls on the horizon. Our vigil would end when they slipped over the edge and disappeared. You had to squint against the glare to keep them sighted, and with every blink you expected the last white speck to be gone.

But this time they didn’t disappear. They kept floating out there, suspended, as if the horizon had finally become what it always seemed to be from the shore: the sea’s limit, beyond which no man could sail. They floated awhile, then they began to grow, tiny gulls becoming boats again, a white armada cruising toward us.

“They’re coming back,” my mother said.

“Why would they be coming back?” Chizu said.

“Something with the engine.”

“Maybe somebody got hurt.”

“But they wouldn’t all come back,” Mama said, bewildered.

Another woman said, “Maybe there’s a storm coming.”

They all glanced at the sky, scanning the unmarred horizon. Mama shook her head. There was no explanation. No one had ever seen anything like this before. We watched and waited, and when the boats were still about half a mile off the lighthouse a fellow from the cannery came running down to the wharf shouting that the Japanese had just bombed Pearl Harbor.

Chizu said to Mama, “What does he mean? What is Pearl Harbor?”

Mama yelled at him, “What is Pearl Harbor?”

But he was running along the docks, like Paul Revere, bringing the news, and didn’t have time to explain.

That night Papa burned the flag he had brought with him from Hiroshima thirty-five years earlier. It was such a beautiful piece of material, I couldn’t believe he was doing that. He burned a lot of papers too, documents, anything that might suggest he still had some connection with Japan. These precautions didn’t do him much good. He was not only an alien; he held a commercial fishing license, and in the early days of the war the FBI was picking up all such men, for fear they were somehow making contact with enemy ships off the coast. Papa himself knew it would only be a matter of time.

They got him to weeks later, when we were staying overnight at Woody’s place, on Terminal Island. Five hundred Japanese families lived there then, and FBI deputies had been questioning everyone, ransacking houses for anything that could conceivably be used for signaling planes or ships or that indicated loyalty to the Emperor. Most of the houses had radios with a short-wave band and a high aerial on the roof so that wives could make contact with the fishing boats during these long cruises. To the FBI every radio owner was a potential saboteur. The confiscators were often deputies sworn in hastily during the turbulent days right after Pearl Harbor, and these men seemed to be acting out the general panic, seeing sinister possibilities in the most ordinary household items: flashlights, kitchen knives, cameras, lanterns, toy swords.

If Papa were trying to avoid arrest, he wouldn’t have gone near that island. But I think he knew it was futile to hide out or resist. The next morning two FBI men in fedora hats and trench coats — like out of a thirties movie — knocked on Woody’s door, and when they left, Papa was between them. He didn’t struggle. There was no point to it. He had become a man without a country. The land of his birth was at war with America; yet after thirty-five years here he was still prevented by law from becoming an American citizen. He was suddenly a man with no rights who looked exactly like the enemy.

About all he had left at this point was his tremendous dignity. He was tall for a Japanese man, nearly six feet, lean and hard and healthy-skinned from the sea. He was over fifty. Ten children and a lot of hard luck had worn him down, had worn away most of the arrogance he came to this country with. But he still had dignity, and he would not let those deputies push him out the door. He led them.

Mama knew they were taking all the alien men first to an interrogation center right there on the island. Some were simply being questioned and released. In the beginning she wasn’t too worried; at least she wouldn’t let herself be. But it grew dark and he wasn’t back. Another day went by and we still had heard nothing. Then word came that he had been taken in to custody and shipped out. Where to, or for how long? No one knew. All my brothers’ attempts to find out were fruitless.

What had they charged him with? We didn’t know that either, until an article appeared the next day in the Santa Monica paper, saying he had been arrested for delivering oil to Japanese submarines offshore.

My mother began to weep. It seems now that she wept for days. She was a small, plump woman who laughed easily and cried easily, but I had never seen her cry like this. I couldn’t understand it. I remember clinging to her legs, wondering why everyone was crying. This was the beginning of a terrible, frantic time for all my family. But I myself didn’t cry about Papa, or have any inkling of what was wrenching Mama’s heart, until the next time I saw him, almost a year later.

Meet the Author

Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston live and write in Santa Cruz, California. For their teleplay for the NBC television drama based on Farewell to Manzanar, they received the prestigious Humanitas Prize.

From the Paperback edition.

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Farewell to Manzanar 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 99 reviews.
dustin_d_wv More than 1 year ago
Book title and author Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, James D. Houston Title of review: Farwell to Manzanar Number of stars (1 to 5): 5 Farwell to Manzanar is a really good book. It's about this girl who doesn't know what Pearl Harbor is. She was only seven years in 1942 when her family uprooted her from the family to go to Manzanar internment camp. When she went to the camp there were one-thousand other Japanese people there. But there was a lot of cool stuff there including cheerleaders, boy scouts, and even more. So I wonder how bad it feels like to grow up behind barbed wire fence. The little girl did like to listen to the band sing 'don't fence me in.' The little girl is so beautiful, she is so smart and I think she is the smartest little girl I know. After she decided that she liked the camp she made friends and had a pretty decent life. One thing I don't like is the camp was in the United States.
JuHyeK More than 1 year ago
*Spoiler Alert Before reading Farewell to Manzanar, I only looked at the perspective of myself and my country, America. I have never looked at the perspective of different people. After reading this book, I’ve come to realize how ignorant I was for not listening or even trying to look at the perspectives of the other side, even though sometimes they may be considered as the “enemy”. I was one of those self-conscious people that did not care about what others thought, like the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Jeanne’s Farewell to Manzanar helps us to picture a life at the internment camp in Manzanar, where many Japanese were captured and forced to live in. This book captures a little eight year old girl had to experience bad weather, sleeping in a cramped cubicle, eating unfamiliar food and worst of all, seeing her family corrupting and separating as the days went by. At one scene, Jeanne saw her father for the first time after he was captured by the Americans and brought to North Dakota. It had only been nine months that they haven’t seen each other, but the family knew he had changed. She says, “I thought I should be laughing and welcoming him home. But I started to cry. By this time everyone was crying. No one else had moved yet to touch him… I hugged him tighter, wanting ti be happy that my father had come back. Yet I hurt so inside I could only welcome him with convulsive tears (46)”. Jeanne was the only one who was brave enough to welcome her father who looked terrible. Even though the Japanese may have bombed Pearl Harbor, many innocent people had to suffer through this event. As Americans, we may think that it must be right to send the Japanese away for bombing us, but many Japanese who did not do anything relevant to the bombing and just lived peacefully in America had to move away because of their appearances and bloodline. Jeanne’s family is one of many innocent Japanese families that had to suffer. This memoir is an amazing story that will always remind to be mindful of other’s perspectives.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Book Review Outline Book title and author: Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston & James D. Houston Title of review: Farewell to Manzanar Review Number of stars (1 to 5): 3.5 Introduction Jeanne looks back on her life in Manzanar concentration camp. She finally voices the thoughts she has kept to herself all this time. I thought the book was interesting because it describes life in a concentration camp through the eyes of a seven year old. Description and summary of main points Jeannie Wakatsuki was exiled into a concentration camp as a little girl. She did not understand what was happening, as she was only seven years old. She tells what life was like inside the gates of Manzanar and what life was like when they were forced into the outside world. She also recalls a visit to Manzanar as an adult. Evaluation In the beginning of the book, the plot is jumble and confusing. The characters are portrayed very well and are completely life- like. The settings are described accurately and detailed. As Jeanne grows older, she comes to realize the meaning of Manzanar. This book voices Jeanne’s thoughts and opinions of Manzanar and life very well. Conclusion This book shows life at Manzanar through the eyes of young Jeannie. She tells her thoughts as a child, teenager, and an adult. Overall, it is a very good book and I enjoyed it. Your final review Though the plot is jumbled at first, you start to understand the book better once you read farther into it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In the book Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuk Houston and James D. Houston, Jeanne is a young, seven year old, girl who was sent with her family to live at Manzanar interment camp in 1942 with 10 thousand other Japanese Americans. This is a true story of a spirited Japanese American family's attempt to survive the indignities of forced detention. The authors do a good job of engaging the reader by having a significant amount of details in the text. For example, on page 76, it says, 'Another nineteen-year-old died five days later.' These details help you understand the story a little bit more. To me, the details are really good and the best thing the authors can do to make the book more interesting. However, I didn't quite understand the beginning of the book until i read the rest of the book. I think that whoever enjoys true stories would really enjoy this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a high school student and i found that this book was wonderful. It really helped me understand the Japanese internment camps more. I provided e with great information to help me with my project. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning about the life inside the camps.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book gives a good account of life in one of the internment areas in US of Japanese-Americans. Also what a mistake it was to do this to citizens of the US.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was really thorough and had spirit, although there were very heartbreaking moments
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston is an engaging, thought-provoking memoir about what was is like to grow up behind a barbed wire fence during the time of World War II. Seven year old Japanese-American Jeanne Wakatsuki was living in San Pedro Harbor, California when Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941. Not long after this tragic event, the Wakatsuki family and 10 thousand other Japanese families got sent to Japanese internment camps. Fortunately, the whole Wakatsuki family got sent to Manzanar Internment Camp. Jeanne and her family had to learn to survive in the terrible living conditions. Although Jeanne didn’t understand much about what was going on in the world at her time in Manzanar, the time she spent there completely changed herself and her life. Decades after Jeanne left Manzanar, she finally found her voice and decided to speak up about the four long years she spent at the Japanese internment camp. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ekh. This book was kind of boring. Countless times I fell asleep while reading it; it's a slow story.
Nakkiah_Stampfli More than 1 year ago
I had to read this book for school and it was one of the better books we read. The story line was solid and well organized. It was also a great way to teach students what it was like for the Asian-Americans after Pearl Harbor, without making them to be the bad guys. We really get a chance to see what went on inside the camps and we can really understand the thoughts and feelings of those in the camps through this book. Gret read, I highly suggest it! Especially for those students who are taking a U.S. History class.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After the tragedy of the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, there was a lot of tension in the United States towards Japanese-Americans. The Manzanar internment camp in California was one of the first to open, and the Wakutsuki family was sent there from Long Beach. They were forced to leave and take only the things they could carry. Jeanne was only seven at the time yet she faced such new and unfamiliar challenges. Being interned had emotional and physical consequences on her family, especially her Issei father. This memoir recalls the family's experience.
allison_l_wv More than 1 year ago
Farewell to Manzanar is an exhilarating book to read! This book is non-fiction and very vivid. In my opinion this book will be suitable for anyone. Farwell to Manzanar is about a young Japanese girl with her family and her childhood through Pearl Harbor. It contains her family's frustrations and raging moments that will keep you on the edge of your seat. This nail biting story also includes her school life-boys, friendships, sports, etc. This motivating book is similar to what happened to over 110,000 Japanese family's during the mid 1940's at various camps throughout the United States. The main character in this tale is about a 7 year old Japanese girl Jeanne Wakatsuki, growing up in the early and mid 1940's in a concentration camp in California, and her getting her life back together again after they leave the camp. Other important characters in this story are papa, mama, and Radine. You will read that papa is very strict and proud about his family's Japanese descent. Mama is very kind and considerate while Radine, Jeanne's first real friend in her life, is brave for what she does throughout the story for Jeanne against the racial people in their community. Jeanne is aroused to get out in the real world again since the any years at Manzanar. Manzanar was where thousands of Japanese and other oriental family's such as Indian, Korean, etc. were forced to move into for years of their life. People can learn a valuable lesson from this book. Farewell to Manzanar is something that not even words can express! To find out what it's really like to learn the lives of a Japanese family going through a U.S tragedy and their experiences through the years, you'll just have to find out by yourself and read this book.
ragan_s_wv More than 1 year ago
Farewell to Manzanar by James D. Houston and Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston is a nonfiction novel that is written in first person. This novel was published in 1973 by Houghton Mifflin. It took place in 1941 in the internment camps that the Japanese people had to live in. A young girl of the age of seven years old and named Jeanne Wakatsuki was the main character. She had to live in multiple places such as Terminal Island, Ocean Park in California, Boyle Heights in Los Angeles, Owens Valley, Manzanar, and Long Beach throughout the book. The book was pretty good, but was very hard to understand. Jeanne Wakatsuki had a very tough life. She went through a lot before she got to actually enjoy her life. She got made fun of by the Caucasians and was slightly scared of her own race. The author had a way of making you feel like you were right there through all the family struggles. She makes you feel very upset at the end of the day because you are treated so well and they were treated so badly. Her own dad said, "I'm going to sell you to the china-man," meaning that he was going to give them away. Her father was always drunk and her mother was always being beaten by her father. This book really inspired me to give the people that had to live in the interment camps sympathy. Jeanne had no clue she was being treated so badly till she grew a little older. When the mother said, "Woody, we can't live like this, animals live like this," it was very upsetting to know that they lived that badly. I had to look up many of the words that used. They were so medically defined that it was kind of hard to understand what they were talking about. Also, it was very detailed about the clothing and camps. I really liked the book except for those few complaints.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago