They Called Us Enemy

Finished They Called Us Enemy by George Takei.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A stunning graphic memoir recounting actor/author/activist George Takei’s childhood imprisoned within American concentration camps during World War II. Experience the forces that shaped an American icon — and America itself — in this gripping tale of courage, country, loyalty, and love.

George Takei has captured hearts and minds worldwide with his captivating stage presence and outspoken commitment to equal rights. But long before he braved new frontiers in Star Trek, he woke up as a four-year-old boy to find his own birth country at war with his father’s — and their entire family forced from their home into an uncertain future.

In 1942, at the order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, every person of Japanese descent on the west coast was rounded up and shipped to one of ten “relocation centers,” hundreds or thousands of miles from home, where they would be held for years under armed guard.

They Called Us Enemy is Takei’s firsthand account of those years behind barbed wire, the joys and terrors of growing up under legalized racism, his mother’s hard choices, his father’s faith in democracy, and the way those experiences planted the seeds for his astonishing future.

What is American? Who gets to decide? When the world is against you, what can one person do? To answer these questions, George Takei joins co-writers Justin Eisinger & Steven Scott and artist Harmony Becker for the journey of a lifetime.”

Like Room, the atrocities in here are narrated by a child. George Takei didn’t realize the full extent of what was happening when he, his parents and his two younger siblings were sent to Japanese internment camps (read: imprisoned) but that doesn’t make it any easier for the reader.

This book absolutely broke my heart. We’re never getting better as a country, are we? We’re still afraid of people who we deem as “other” and we just take turns with who that “other” is considered to be.

(George Takei is a lot more hopeful about this than I am; he also shares that the government apologized—decades later, Ronald Reagan officially apologized and George HW Bush issued reparations to the American citizens who were wrongly imprisoned due to their ancestry.)

This is not an easy book but it’s a very necessary one. Highly recommended.

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