Takei, best known for his role on Star Trek, relates the story of his family’s internment during WWII in this moving and layered graphic memoir. Japanese-Americans were classified as “Alien Enemy” after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and were forced to relocate to camps when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. Takei, who was five years old, along with his father, mother, and young siblings, was held from 1942 through January 1946, first at Camp Rohwer, Arkansas, and then later at Tule Lake, Calif.. The manga-influenced art by Harmony Becker juxtaposes Takei’s childlike wonder over the “adventure” of the train trip with the stress and worry carried by his parents. As much as possible, Takei’s parents took pains to ensure their children were shielded from the reality of their situation, though Takei still relates traumas and humiliations (and a few funny stories). It was only years later, during talks with his father, that Takei was given insight into his past. As a teenager, Takei lashes out in anger over the treatment of Japanese-Americans, and his father calmly states that “despite all that we’ve experienced, our Democracy is still the best in the world.” Takei takes that lesson to heart in a stirring speech he delivers at the FDR Library on the 75th anniversary of the Day of Remembrance. Using parallel scenes from Trump’s travel ban, in the closing pages, Takei challenges Americans to look to how past humanitarian injustices speak to current political debates. Giving a personal view into difficult history, Takei’s work is a testament to hope and tenacity in the face of adversity. (July)
"They Called Us Enemy is truly beautiful — moving, thoughtful, important, engaging, and stunningly rendered. I am so excited to see this book's impact on the world." — Jacqueline Woodson, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and National Book Award-winning author of Brown Girl Dreaming
"George Takei’s story reveals the important lessons of the WWII Japanese American Incarceration that still need to be learned today. They Called Us Enemy is a compelling must-read for all ages.” — Karen Korematsu, Founder and Executive Director, Fred T. Korematsu Institute
"Moving and layered... Giving a personal view into difficult history, [They Called Us Enemy] is a testament to hope and tenacity in the face of adversity." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"A compelling blend of nostalgia and outrage... this approachable, well-wrought graphic memoir is important reading, particularly in today's political climate." — Booklist (starred review)
"This evocative memoir shares stories of the nation’s past, draws heartbreaking parallels to the present, and serves as a cautionary tale for the future."— School Library Journal (starred review)
"Emotionally staggering... They Called Us Enemy also inspires readers to engage through democracy to insist that we treat fellow human beings with fairness and dignity." — Amazon's "Best Books of the Month"
"Riveting... Takei has evolved into an increasingly powerful voice for oppressed communities, and Enemy finds him at peak moral clarity — an unflinching force in these divisive times." — The Washington Post
"A cogent reminder that liberty and justice is not always for all, They Called Us Enemy explores a dark episode of America’s past as it dives into the heart of a pop culture icon." — Foreword Reviews' "Indie Books That'll Blow You Away"
"The creators are gifted storytellers, and Takei has a great story to tell, full of unexpected twists. And as compelling as it is, it is also inspirational, a story of ordinary people and the choices they faced in an extraordinary time." — ICv2
"A tale of triumph over adversity." — BBC America
Takei, social media darling, out-and-proud octogenarian, and member of the original Star Trek cast, spent a part of his early childhood in Japanese internment camps during World War II. This purposefully pointed graphic novel, cocreated with writers Justin Eisinger and Steven Scott and artist Becker (Himawari Share), recalls his family's experience in the camps while providing solid historical context of the incarceration's broader implications. The story is Takei's parents' as much as his own—first-generation Japanese immigrants trying to care for and protect three young American-born children while imprisoned as enemies of the state by virtue of their race. Subtle hints of manga conventions are threaded through straightforward panel comics that serve the narrative at a quick clip. This particular story is expressly crafted for a general audience, with great potential for classroom use, walking a fine line between textbook history and personal anecdote. As the adage suggests, if we forget history, we are doomed to repeat it, and the echoes of internment policies in today's treatment of immigrants are truly chilling. VERDICT Takei is nothing if not savvy about his cultural influence, and here he uses that to share a fully fleshed-out and articulate vilification of America's most xenophobic tendencies.[Previewed in Ingrid Bohnenkamp's Graphic Novel Spotlight, "Mass Appeal," LJ 6/19.]—Emilia Packard, Austin, TX
Gr 7 Up-In the wake of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, 120,000 Japanese Americans were rounded up, incarcerated in camps, and stripped of freedoms in the name of national security. Among them was future television star and political activist Takei, who as a child was imprisoned along with his family by the U.S. government. Takei, joined by writers Eisinger and Scott, tells a powerful, somewhat nonlinear story spanning 80 years of U.S. history, starting right after Executive Order 9066 was enacted in 1942. The Takeis quickly lost everything they couldn't carry with them and were treated as criminals, but they persevered and eventually made it out of the camps. As the narrative draws to a close, the writing team strategically refers to the imprisonment of children at the U.S. southern border, the Supreme Court ruling Trump v. Hawaii (which upheld the "Muslim travel ban"), and President Barack Obama's inaugural address, calling upon readers to ensure that history does not repeat itself. Becker's grayscale art makes heavy use of patterned hatching to add focused textural intrigue but also casts the individuals in a shadow that reflects what became of their lives. Japanese, used minimally throughout the text, is presented in italics, with translations denoted by an asterisk, though there is at least one occurrence of untranslated Japanese. There is infrequent cursing and violence. VERDICT This evocative memoir shares stories of the nation's past, draws heartbreaking parallels to the present, and serves as a cautionary tale for the future. For all readers old enough to understand the importance of our collective history.-Alea Perez, Elmhurst Public Library, IL
A beautifully heart-wrenching graphic-novel adaptation of actor and activist Takei's (Lions and Tigers and Bears, 2013, etc.) childhood experience of incarceration in a World War II camp for Japanese Americans.
Takei had not yet started school when he, his parents, and his younger siblings were forced to leave their home and report to the Santa Anita Racetrack for "processing and removal" due to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066. The creators smoothly and cleverly embed the historical context within which Takei's family's story takes place, allowing readers to simultaneously experience the daily humiliations that they suffered in the camps while providing readers with a broader understanding of the federal legislation, lawsuits, and actions which led to and maintained this injustice. The heroes who fought against this and provided support to and within the Japanese American community, such as Fred Korematsu, the 442nd Regiment, Herbert Nicholson, and the ACLU's Wayne Collins, are also highlighted, but the focus always remains on the many sacrifices that Takei's parents made to ensure the safety and survival of their family while shielding their children from knowing the depths of the hatred they faced and danger they were in. The creators also highlight the dangerous parallels between the hate speech, stereotyping, and legislation used against Japanese Americans and the trajectory of current events. Delicate grayscale illustrations effectively convey the intense emotions and the stark living conditions.
A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today. (Graphic memoir. 14-adult)